The Environmental Committee works to protect the watershed and to educate the public on forestry issues, erosion control, hazardous waste, recycling, and other issues. We also monitor government policies and procedures.
PG&E is a high priority for the Environmental Committee due to its massive and destructive felling of trees to prevent wildfires when unsafe, unreliable, antiquated equipment is the fundamental cause of the fires. From working on legislation and a new Franchise Agreement for PG&E in the County to in-depth research and analysis to support work with agencies affecting PG&E and helping folks protect their trees from PG&E’s contractors, this keeps the group busy. We work with a State-wide Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce on these issues.
Your help is needed.
Visit https://endpowerlinefires.com for more information.
River & Road Clean Up
with Save Our Shores
Annual Environmental Town Hall
Felton Community Hall
First Saturday of the month
Second Saturday if the first Saturday is a holiday weekend.
10:30 am at VWC Office at Highlands Park Senior Center
On Zoom and in-person. Email for Zoom info.
Meetings are open to the public.
Call 338-6578 or email for information.
PG&E vs Southern California Edison (SCE)— PG&E fails to provide a safe, reliable system in contrast to SCE.
Since the terrible fires statewide in 2017, there has been enormous pressure on utilities, especially the three largest Investor-owned Utilities (IOUs) that provide electric power to much of the State and (unlike Municipal Utilities) are guaranteed a profit. PG&E is very skilled at manipulating its data and processes to increase its profit.
This post compares what PG&E did in the years after 2017, what SCE did, and why SCE is providing a safer, more reliable system than PG&E.
Southern California Edison’s Process to Achieving Wildfire Safety Wildfire Covered Conductor Program (WCCP) (2017-present) Grid Safety and Resileincy Program (GSRP) (2018-present) vs PG&E’s Failure in Achieving Wildfire Safety
After suffering disastrous wildfires in 2016-17, Southern California Edison (SCE) publicly acknowledged that their distribution system was unsafe and unreliable – that it was vulnerable to many ignition drivers. So, SCE created an “end of life” to their antiquated strategy (SCE also fixated on trees and soon added Public Safety Power Shutoffs).
SCE implemented a new Best Practices model based on infrastructure improvement. In contrast, PG&E’s failure to update and modernize demonstrates that they neglected to utilize effective Best Practices model decision making. The third largest Investor Owned Utility (IOU), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), has also implemented a covered conductor program to replace all bare wires. So has the tiny Bear Valley Electric Company serving Big Bear and its surroundings, among others. Understandably, SCE has thus been successful in:
And then proving that covered conductor and system replacement is successful in mitigating wildfire (Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update, 2021).
How did SCE decide on this plan? SCE studied world-wide successes since the 1970’s in which covered conductor provided reliability improvement in every situation including the following: dense vegetation areas (Scandinavia, UK, New England), dense populations (Japan), animal protection (Thailand, Malaysia), reduction of “bushfires” (Australia).
Thus SCE took action to
SCE’s RAMP analysis show that Covered Conductor had the greatest risk-spend efficiency (RSE) since it is 3.4x greater than Bare Conductor, 4x greater than Underground Relocation, and the Speed of Covered Conductor deployment is much faster.
Then, SCE’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan February 5, 2021 Update provided clear proof that the covered conductor was effective in preventing wildfires.
Note the contrast with PG&E’s response to the devastating wildfires of 2016-17 and since.
The other part of the 2017 Plan was to turn off power when winds blew. This became the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS, that were soon implemented with severely inadequate planning and communication, causing disastrous consequences, including deaths, billions of dollars of losses to businesses and communities and dangerous situations for thousands.
The original Wildfire Safety Plan was not without strong criticism within the CPUC. Unsurprisingly, filed reports by PG&E to the Commission on subject of fire, neglected to address basic analysis necessary for legitimate assessments of fire safety. This was pointed out by the Commission’s own Office of the Public Safety Advocate that, in evaluating “wires down” events reported by PG&E, “it does not appear that PG&E evaluated the individual effectiveness of its mitigation programs to reduce wires down, including wires down that remain energized, or the other various root cause mitigation programs related to this risk.” [Investigation 17-11-003] (Filed Nov. 9, 2017)
In the meantime, with potentially decades of delay, PG&E admitted that EVM can only hope for a maximum of 35% success in reducing wildfires (PG&E’s 2021-Wildfire-Safety-Plan- Revised-060321-1.pdf). Then, in response to Judge Alsup, Case 3:14-cr-00175-WHA Document 1256 Filed 10/29/20 at page 16 of Exhibit E, PG&E states:
In light of the meteorological information indicating the potential for catastrophic wildfire and the customer impacts from mitigating that fire risk through deenergization, PG&E considered whether alternatives to de-energizing, such as additional vegetation management and disabling automatic reclosers, could adequately reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to obviate the need for de-energization. PG&E determined that these measures alone did not reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in areas within the PSPS scope sufficiently to protect public safety.
One has to ask, then, why perform EVM when you know it is not going to work. The fail-safe solution is that of Southern California Edison…
In stark contrast to PG&E’s painful, disastrous efforts, as stated above, Southern California Edison’s (SCE) well-researched and designed Wildfire Covered Conductor Program (WCCP), is proving successful.
WCCP has resulted in replacement of hundreds of distribution circuit miles, eliminating a dangerous, antiquated system and providing significant improvement in safety and reliability. SCE’s data in its February, 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update includes clear proof that this modernization program provides protection from at least 90% of wildfire ignition drivers.
Even as it continues limited undergrounding in specific areas, SCE is expanding its distribution system modernization programs extensively – 965 miles in High Fire Risk Areas (HFRA’s) in 2020 alone. Of great significance, SCE has found the expansion cost effective — not simply in protecting SCE from wildfire liabilities along with savings from reduced future maintenance and VM costs, but that the WCCP and GSRP are actually less expensive per mile than PG&E’s EVM. The new distribution sections have proven both reliable and safe, so SCE is expanding to cover 5,000 miles in the 2021-2023 timeframe.
➤ It is time to require that PG&E adopt SCE’s wildfire mitigation solutions, now well proven to prevent wildfire, ensure reliability, reduce long-term system maintenance and to abandon the failed EVM program.