Installation of Powerline Safety Settings Essentially Complete in High-Fire Risk Areas Across 25,500 Distribution Line Miles in PG&E’s Service Area
Settings Automatically Turn Off Power Within
One-Tenth of a Second or Less When a Hazard on a Powerline is
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today announced that
installation of Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) on its
distribution powerlines in high fire-risk areas (HFRA) is
essentially complete. These safety settings quickly and
automatically shut off power within one-tenth of a second or less
if a potential threat is detected to the electric system, such as a
tree branch falling into a powerline.
PG&E Meteorology and Operations teams assess wildfire risk
daily along more than 1,000 circuits in high-risk areas. When
wildfire risk is elevated, the teams will enable EPSS to reduce the
likelihood of potential wildfire ignitions and provide additional
protection for customers.
Launched as a pilot in 2021, these enhanced safety settings
reduced California Public Utilities Commission-reportable ignitions
by 80% on EPSS-enabled circuits in HFRAs, as of Dec. 31, 2021, when
compared to the prior three-year average across more than 11,500
HFRA miles of line, or 45% of the distribution powerlines in
Given the substantial ignition reduction benefits experienced
last year, PG&E expanded implementation of these new safety
settings in 2022 across approximately 25,500 distribution line
miles located in HFRAs as well as another 18,500 line miles in
areas adjacent to HFRAs. As of May 24, 2022, PG&E has protected
more than 850,000 customers in high fire-risk areas where the
settings have been installed and enabled.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to make it safe for our
customers and strive for our goal of zero utility-caused
catastrophic wildfires,” said Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s Vice
President of Transmission and Distribution System Operations.
“These enhanced safety settings help to reduce the current risk of
wildfires for our most vulnerable customers and are just one of
many wildfire prevention efforts we are employing to strengthen our
system, incorporate new technologies and take aggressive action to
increase system safety.”
Compared to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), which are a
last resort when severe weather conditions such as high winds are
forecast, EPSS is effective when extremely dry fuels make powerline
faults more likely to spark a fire. These enhanced safety settings
do not require a proactive shutoff like PSPS events and instead,
may result in outages in real time when a threat is detected to the
(Watch a video of ongoing testing of the safety settings at
PG&E’s Applied Technology Services lab in San Ramon.)
Enhanced Customer Support
Although these new safety settings make the electric system
safer, having the power turn off quickly and automatically results
in customer outages. PG&E is working to reduce the outages and
increase the resources available to affected customers.
During the 2021 pilot, after optimizing the equipment and
improving the efficiency of restoration processes, the average
customer outage length on EPSS-enabled circuits decreased by 40%.
Additional improvements to the program in 2022 will enable a more
surgical approach to minimize the frequency and duration of outages
and reduce the number of customers impacted. That includes refining
operational flexibility during the time-periods of potential
wildfire risk when it comes to enabling the enhanced safety
PG&E is also bolstering communication and engagement efforts
with potentially affected customers and communities in HFRAs and
nearby areas during and after service interruptions. This will
include automated outage alerts with improved estimated time of
restoration information. Additional communications include
newsletters, webinars, letters and emails; updating the EPSS page
on our website; and providing information via social media sites
such as Nextdoor and Facebook.
PG&E also has resources to help customers prepare for
outages and stay safe. In 2022, changes to our programs
- Increased funding and expansion of eligibility for the
Generator Rebate Program, which is for customers who rely on well
water, as well as for customers in our Medical Baseline Program and
certain small businesses.
- Removal of the low-income requirements for the Portable Battery
Program, available for eligible customers in our Medical Baseline
Program who live in high fire-threat areas.
- The expansion of the Backup Power Transfer Meter, now being
offered to all customers on EPSS-enabled circuits.
For more information, please visit pge.com/epss.
Long-Term Action to Reduce Wildfire Risk
The enhanced safety settings are just one of the many steps
PG&E is taking to protect customers and communities. We are
taking long-term action, using new, advanced tools to prevent
wildfires and build the state-of-the-art electric system that our
communities deserve. This work includes:
- Beginning to underground 10,000 miles of powerlines to improve
the safety and reliability of our service.
- Exceeding state vegetation standards to prevent trees from
falling into powerlines.
- Continuing to install stronger poles and powerlines to make the
electric grid safer and more resilient.
- Reducing the impact of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) with
grid updates and weather forecasting improvements that allow us to
surgically target shutoffs.
- Installing microgrids that use generators to keep the
electricity on during wildfire safety outages.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E
Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric
utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square
miles in Northern and Central California. For more information,
visit pge.com and pge.com/news.
version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220525005920/en/
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