California Public Utilities Commission opens proceeding on utility de-energization

Published on December 17, 2018 by Kevin Randolph

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently opened a proceeding to examine its rules regarding electric utility de-energization of power lines during severe wildfire threat as a last-resort preventative measure.

The CPUC will explore how de-energization has impacted the state and will refine its de-energization rules to ensure public safety while minimizing unintended consequences.

“The de-energization model deployed by San Diego Gas & Electric has proven to be successful because it has deployed several tools to better identify the electric lines that should be de-energized,” CPUC President Michael Picker said. “We should work to further learn from this model and how it can be effectively applied to the rest of California. Due to regional variability, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so we will need to continue to learn from and adjust our efforts on this front. The proceeding we opened today presents an opportunity for all stakeholders involved to better develop practices that fit their communities.”

The proceeding aims to develop best practices, establish criteria for evaluating de-energization programs, ensure utilities with first responders and align their practices with the Standardized Emergency Management System framework (SEMS). It also aims to mitigate the impact of de-energization on vulnerable populations, explore whether the need for de-energization can be reduced and ensure effective notice of de-energization to affected stakeholders.

The CPUC is holding two public workshops in northern and southern California to address the potential impacts of utility de-energization practices.