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PG&E 2023-2025 wildfire safety strategy calls for greater pole and line protections, undergrounding, tree trimming

Largely building on practices already seen to be having effects, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) submitted its 2023-2025 Wildfire Mitigation Plan to California regulators this week, detailing efforts to harden poles and powerlines, underground lines, manage vegetation, inspect and repair.

“Our system has never been safer, and we continue to make it safer every day,” Sumeet Singh, PG&E executive vice president, operations and COO, said. “Our Wildfire Mitigation Plan outlines multiple layers of protection we’re using to stop catastrophic wildfires in our hometowns. We’re also doing more than ever to reduce the impacts of EPSS and PSPS on our customers. We want a future where our customers don’t have to choose between safety and reliability—we want both, and we are working every day to make that possible.”

According to the company, its efforts to date have reduced wildfire risk to its equipment by more than 90 percent, and it aims to advance on the remaining 10 percent over the coming period. In addition to continuing in efforts PG&E has seen deliver results, it also proposed to California’s Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety the pursuit of new technology solutions, such as partial voltage detection and downed conductors, which detect potential threats to the grid and allow for rapid reductions to or shut-offs of power.

A major ongoing effort is undergrounding of lines – a permanent means to reduce ignition risk from otherwise overhead electric distribution lines. PG&E earlier committed to undergrounding 10,000 miles of lines in high-risk areas and plans to finish work on 2,100 miles of lines between 2023-2026. At the same time, it will install covered conductors, stronger poles, and wider crossarms to improve how the grid is constructed and operated while utilizing risk-informed approaches to vegetation management and the risk in potential ignitions this brings.

Over the last year, the company reported a 68 percent reduction in California Public Utilities Commission-reportable ignitions – compared to the 2018-2020 average – after enhanced powerline safety settings were deployed across PG&E’s 44,000-line network. The company intends to install additional sectionalizing devices and animal protection equipment across its service area and tap A.I.-enabled wildfire camera data and automated wildfire notifications to improve situational awareness.

PG&E services more than 16 million people across California.

Chris Galford

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