Power Lines and Wildfire
The October 2019 PG&E PSPS Website Failure
From October 8th to October 12th, 2019, PG&E planned its largest pre-emptive power shutoff event (PSPS) ever attempted by a utility in anticipation of an extreme Diablo wind event. As the event approached, performance of the PG&E website, a primary outlet for PSPS information, degraded and key components ultimately failed. As part of a CPUC proceeding investigating PG&E's October 2019 event, M-bar's expert prepared testimony and briefing for MGRA on the PG&E website failure. Our findings: PG&E's failure was at the root a lack of customer empathy. PG&E did not understand how its customers would use its website during a power shutoff event, and as a result under-estimated required capacity, failed to implement performance testing, and missed a key warning sign that could have helped it avoid the outage.
Utility Power Shutoff
Quantification of customer and resident harm
Criteria for “reasonable” shutoff, including documented infrastructure damage
Requiring utilities to track predicted and measured wind speeds for all de-energized circuits
Power Shutoff NEWS 8 Interview
I discuss utility power shutoff and alternatives with David Gottfriedson of San Diego News 8.
Wildfire Mitigation Plans
- - Continuing opportunity for substantive public and party input into utility fire plans
- - Mandating wind speed as a key metric related to outages, vegetation incidents, and fires
- - State-wide standards for all California electric utilities
- - Training and certification for the new utility wildfire plan Independent Evaluators
Utility Liablity Cost Recovery Opposition
In 2009, California electrical utilities PG&E, SCE and SDG&E proposed creating a formal mechanism through which they could recover liability losses from wildland fires from ratepayers regardless of whether or not they were responsible for starting the fires. MGRA and other parties opposed this proposal, noting that it creates a moral hazard by reducing incentive for safe operation.