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California Commission Issues Safety Metrics Proposal To Improve Utility Risk Mitigation And Safety Performance

Sept. 23, 2021

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision that, if approved by the CPUC’s commissioners, would enhance regulatory oversight and enforcement of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) by improving risk mitigation and monitoring of the safety performance of all IOUs. The proposed decision also establishes specific metrics to systemically evaluate Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) operational safety performance and to further implement the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process imposed upon PG&E by the CPUC as a condition of approving PG&E’s plan for exiting bankruptcy in May 2020. These efforts seek to promote the highest safety performance of all IOUs in their provision of safe and reliable electric service to Californians.

The proposed decision issued today is part of the CPUC’s ongoing efforts to incorporate risk-based decision-making into utility rate cases. Transparent, risk-based investment decision-making approaches better inform the CPUC and interested parties in evaluating how energy utilities assess, manage, mitigate, and minimize safety risks.

Today’s proposed decision would adopt 10 new Safety Performance Metrics, building on those previously adopted, for PG&E, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, and San Diego Gas & Electric, and modify 19 existing Safety Performance Metrics.

The proposed decision would adopt 32 Safety and Operational Metrics for PG&E covering electric (wildfire) safety, electric reliability, and natural gas safety. In addition, beginning in early 2022, PG&E would be required to file biannual reports with the CPUC that include historical data for each metric, a narrative description of progress on each metric towards proposed targets, and a description 2 of current and future activities to meet the proposed targets. Newly established metrics include tracking specific safety-related inspections and incidences within areas and communities highly threatened by wildfire, tracking the frequency and duration of electric power disruptions, as well as tracking serious injuries and fatalities of members of the public and PG&E employees and contractors.

Engineers and analysts at the CPUC would utilize qualitative and quantitative techniques to assess current data and historical trends for each metric. Such data evaluation would also allow for identifying and examining safety incidences or outcomes that deviate from positive performance trends for informing inspections, compliance audits, possible investigations, and enforcement actions by the CPUC.

The Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process for PG&E is a transparent, six-step enforcement framework established by the CPUC with escalating enforcement actions at each step, including placing conditions or revoking PG&E’s license to operate in California. These steps are triggered by specific findings or events, including failure to make sufficient progress on Safety and Operational Metrics.

In April 2020, the CPUC placed PG&E into step one of the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process based on the company’s failure to sufficiently prioritize clearing vegetation on its highest-risk power lines as part of its wildfire mitigation work in 2020. And, last month, CPUC President Marybel Batjer directed CPUC staff to conduct a fact-finding review regarding a pattern of PG&E self-reported missed inspections and other self-reported safety incidents to determine whether a recommendation to advance PG&E further within the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process is warranted.

The Proposed Decision issued today was prepared following public workshops and technical working groups, stakeholder engagement, and public comments. The Proposed Decision will be on the CPUC’s Oct. 21, 2021, Voting Meeting agenda. The Proposed Decision is available at Comments from the public may be submitted to the Public Comments section of the proceeding’s Docket Card.

The CPUC is taking many additional actions to hold PG&E accountable for safely serving its customers, including:

  • Conducting fact-finding to determine whether to recommend advancing PG&E further within the Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement process. 
  • Placed PG&E into the first step of an Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement process based on the company’s failure to sufficiently prioritize clearing vegetation on its highest-risk power lines as part of its wildfire mitigation work in 2020. 
  • Directed PG&E to address its preparedness for Public Safety Power Shutoffs at a public briefing.  Ordered PG&E to make enhancements to its Public Safety Power Shutoffs process.
  • Ordered PG&E to create a mobile app for customers to report electric infrastructure safety concerns.
  • Continual monitoring of PG&E’s safety enhancement actions ordered in a 2018-2020 natural gas system locate and mark investigation.  Continual monitoring of PG&E’s safety enhancement actions ordered in a 2017-2018 wildfires investigation.
  • Ongoing monitoring and reporting of PG&E’s safety culture ordered in a 2015 investigation following PG&E’s 2010 natural gas transmission pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The CPUC regulates services and utilities, safeguards the environment, and assures Californians’ access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services. For more information on the CPUC, please click here.     

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