Approvals Now Go to CPUC for Ratification
Evaluations of Remaining Three Utilities Expected in Coming Weeks
SACRAMENTO – The Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety (Energy Safety) has released its evaluation and approval of the 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Updates submitted by five electrical utilities: San Diego Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities, PacifiCorp, Horizon West and Trans Bay Cable.
The plans, required by 2018 legislation enacted in the wake of devastating wildfires, document utilities’ assessment of their wildfire risks and proposed actions to reduce that risk and prevent catastrophic wildfires caused by utility infrastructure. Energy Safety is tasked with evaluating the plans and ensuring the utilities implement those plans.
Energy Safety will issue its draft evaluation for Southern California Edison later this month, followed by draft evaluations for Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Bear Valley Electric Service in August.
Utilities submitted and made public their first wildfire mitigation plans for review by the CPUC in February 2019. In January 2020, the CPUC’s Wildfire Safety Division was established to oversee and enforce electrical utilities’ compliance with wildfire safety. The division transitioned to the California Natural Resources Agency on July 1, 2021, as the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, consistent with state statute.
“Over the past three years, we have made steady progress helping to steer California’s electrical utilities on a safer path into our climate-changed future,” Energy Safety Director Caroline Thomas Jacobs said. “We know California faces intensifying wildfire danger as the state becomes more arid. While utilities have made important improvements—driven in part by the wildfire mitigation plan evaluation process—there is still much work to be done to reorient how the utilities build, operate and maintain their infrastructure to be resilient in our evolving climate. Energy Safety is laser focused on driving continued improvements in the utilities’ wildfire safety capabilities.”
Examples of progress to date include:
- Risk informed decision-making: All utilities have developed and now use risk modeling to assess their wildfire risk.
- Increased targeting of mitigations to high-risk locations: Each utility has made progress in its ability to target and prioritize wildfire mitigation projects in high risk locations.
- Improved situational awareness: The utilities have installed over 1,800 weather stations and about 600 high-definition cameras that improve their ability to quickly identify and target high risk areas and adjust grid operations to minimize risk of ignitions.
The evaluations require the utilities to follow up on a number of issues and report on their progress by November 1, 2021. Areas where Energy Safety continues to push for improvements include:
- Developing a consistent approach to wildfire risk modeling.
- Ensuring that vegetation management is effective.
- Prioritizing system hardening to get to increase grid resilience.
Energy Safety’s final evaluations and approvals for the five plans will go before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for ratification today.
2021 Plan Updates for large utilities were submitted to Energy Safety on February 5, 2021, while those for small utilities were submitted on March 5, 2021.
In developing the earlier draft action statements and final evaluations issued today, Energy Safety received input from the independent Wildfire Safety Advisory Board, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and public comments. The final documents are available on Energy Safety’s 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plans docket log.