PG&E hosts webinar on wildfire safety, Public Safety Power Shut-offs
Last year, PG&E came under widespread criticism for its handling of its planned Public Safety Power Shut-off events and their effect on customers and communities.
This month, as wildfire season nears, PG&E is hosting a series of webinars designed to both explain the continued need for those shutoffs — and highlight the work it has done to reduce their size and length.
“As we all work to meet the challenge of COVID-19, we also know wildfire season is around the corner,” said Laurie Giammona, senior vice president and chief customer officer for PG&E, in a press release. “We want to ensure our customers understand the steps that we are taking in their community to prepare and improve for this year.”
It was Nevada County’s turn on Wednesday, with a number of PG&E officials appearing via video conference and taking questions from the public.
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Senior Manager for Sacramento and Sierra Divisions Jim Monninger highlighted the 1,345 overhead distribution line miles that run though the high fire threat area of Nevada County, comparing the distance to driving from Grass Valley to the middle of Nebraska.
Monninger noted that high wind could be miles away and still affect the system, adding that PG&E wants to make sure its electrical system doesn’t become the cause of a fire.
There are multiple factors determining whether PG&E will call a Public Safety Power Shut-off, he said.
“Wind is just one factor,” Monninger said. “Dry fuels is another major consideration.”
According to Monninger, 30 years of data shows an estimated one to three high wind events per year in Nevada County.
PG&E is working to limit the size of shut-offs, as well as shortening their duration, he said, adding that making the system more resilient will also help shorten the time needed to restore power.
Public Safety Specialist Rob Cone detailed some of the steps being taken, including the addition of 15 advanced weather stations in Nevada County, which help narrow the scope of a shut-off with more detailed data, as well as 14 new “sectionalized devices” that separate the power grid into smaller sections to limit impact.
PG&E will be performing “enhanced vegetation work” on 85 line miles this season, Cone said.
Additionally, PG&E will improve the notification process to provide more detail and make it easier to understand, said Vanessa Bryan, local customer experience manager.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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