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California Commission Issues Proposal to Enhance Guidelines for Utility PSPS Events

May 25, 2021
Electric investor-owned utilities would be required to take a results-based approach to improving notification and mitigating the impacts of PSPS events.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently issued for public comment a proposal that would enhance and update existing guidelines and rules for utility Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events in advance of the 2021 wildfire season. As a result, electric investor-owned utilities would be required to take a results-based approach to improving notification and mitigating the impacts of PSPS events.

The proposal makes clear that in implementing de-energization as a wildfire mitigation strategy of last resort, the utilities must balance the risk of harm from utility-ignited wildfires against the public harms of shutting off power. The proposal will be on the CPUC's June 24, 2021, Voting Meeting agenda.

These guidelines and rules would go into effect immediately if adopted and would require annual reporting to increase transparency into the utilities' planning and execution of PSPS events. Specifically, the utilities would be required to submit an annual Pre-Season Report that details actions taken by the utilities to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of future PSPS events and an annual Post-Season Report that provides data on customer-focused outcomes during prior year PSPS events.

Guidelines to improve planning, preparation, and access to resources during PSPS events

The proposal would require utilities to:

  1. Conduct annual PSPS Exercises that use the same channels of decision-making, knowledge transfer, implementation, and communication that would be used in an actual PSPS event.
  2. Include additional entities under the definition of critical facilities and infrastructure to ensure that entities essential to public safety receive advance notification of PSPS events and additional assistance in assessing the need for backup generation to ensure resiliency during de-energization.
  3. Provide the following at Community Resource Centers (CRCs): device charging stations that are capable of powering medical devices, cellular network services, water, chairs, PSPS information representatives, and restrooms.

Guidelines to enhance notification of and mitigate impacts on access and functional needs and vulnerable populations

The proposal would require utilities to:

  1. Administer a program to support resiliency for customers that rely on electricity to maintain necessary life functions. The program must provide adequate and appropriate support for the anticipated duration of a PSPS event.
  2. Have utility representatives at the senior vice president level meet at least quarterly with representatives of Access and Functional Needs state agencies and community-based organizations to develop, implement, and review each utility's annual Access and Functional Needs plan.
  3. Conduct annual surveys of customers with access and functional needs to assess whether they were aware of PSPS events and resources available to them, were notified of a possible de-energization event, and were able to use electric equipment to maintain necessary life functions for the duration of any de-energization events. To the extent possible, the utilities must track and report survey results according to specific access or functional needs, for instance persons with a vision impairment as distinct from persons with a developmental disability.
D.20-05-051) issued in this proceeding adopted guidelines and rules to ensure utilities better comprehend and address the needs of impacted communities and are minimizing the duration and impact of PSPS events on communities. Previously, a May 2019 CPUC Decision (D.19-05-042) adopted PSPS communication and notification guidelines and rules for utilities and presented the CPUC's overarching de-energization strategy, along with updates to the requirements established by the CPUC in Resolution ESRB-8 (July 12, 2018).

For more information, visit hereThe proposal is available here.

Documents related to this proceeding are available here. By clicking the Public Comments tab, members of the public can submit comments on the proposal.

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