After another unprecedented series of Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS) and historic wind events creating red flag warnings throughout much of the state, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this week announced it was taking additional urgent actions focused on public health and safety to drive down risks of ignitions from utility infrastructure, risks that result from power loss, and the disruption to communities and commerce.
Grounded in the mandate established by Assembly Bill 1054 and building on a letter CPUC President Marybel Batjer sent to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) on Oct. 14, 2019, as well as the results of a CPUC Emergency Meeting held to question PG&E on Oct. 18, 2019, the CPUC will take a number of steps to ensure that the state’s experience this year with PSPS is not repeated. Those actions include:
- Launching a Formal Investigation: The CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division will ask CPUC Commissioners in the next 30 days to open an investigation (formally known as an Order Instituting Investigation) of the 2019 PSPS events, utility compliance with CPUC regulations and requirements, any resulting violations, and potential actions to ensure utilities are held accountable.
- Immediate Re-Examination of How Utilities Use PSPS: To prevent widespread PSPS events by the next fire season, President Batjer is issuing a new Ruling to reexamine the current PSPS protocol and the use of PSPS by investor-owned utilities. This includes an examination of actions that utilities can take in the next six months to minimize impacts of future PSPS events by increasing grid redundancy, segmentation, and equipment hardening.
- Ensuring Additional Consumer Protection: The CPUC will ensure that for PSPS events, the utilities do not collect from their customers the charges that are a part of every customer’s bill so that customers are not charged for services they do not receive during PSPS events.
- Expanding Wildfire Mitigation Plans for Immediate Impact: President Batjer will direct the utilities to expand their upcoming 2020 Wildfire Mitigation Plans to focus on increasing the safe performance of utilities, reduce the need for PSPS events, create more resilient communities, and provide results before the next wildfire season.
- Enlist New Technology Partnerships: The CPUC will pull together a panel of experts to use data modeling and other advanced technologies to identify specific projects that can be implemented in coming months to minimize the use and scope of PSPS events next fire season. This team of experts will also analyze the effectiveness of utility mitigation plans and evaluate past PSPS events.
“The state cannot continue to experience PSPS events on the scope and scale Californians have experienced this month, nor should Californians be subject to the poor execution that PG&E in particular has exhibited,” said President Batjer. “Through the actions announced today, as well as other steps under our regulatory purview, the CPUC will demand that utilities prepare for and execute PSPS events in a way that greatly reduces impacts on Californians.”