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Fire Away: Wildfire Issues in the Utility Industry

Jan. 27, 2020
The business of designing, operating and maintaining the electric grid continues to increase in complexity as utilities address the challenges of wildfire risk mitigation.

I recently ran some analytics on our top-read T&D World articles of 2019 and perhaps unsurprisingly, the prevailing theme was "fire."

The business of designing, operating and maintaining the electric grid continues to increase in complexity as utilities address the challenges of wildfire risk mitigation. Recently, there have been several fires burning near Los Angeles and San Francisco, and PG&E continues to shut off power to millions of customers hoping to prevent even more fires. The consequences of this issue can threaten a utility’s existence. Thus, every utility in the Western United States is currently scrambling to develop a wildfire risk mitigation plan to present to their state regulatory commission.

Wildfire Center of Excellence

As the leading electric utility information source for over 70 years, T&D World understands the importance of the wildfire risk mitigation topic more than anyone and continues to cover the topic in our print publication and on our website. We have also organized all these resources in one place on our website and created a Wildfire Center of Excellence:

Wildfire Risk Mitigation E-Book

T&D World has also compiled a "Wildfire Risk Mitigation" e-book that provides useful and practical information to assist utility personnel in addressing these risks. This e-book discusses various tools and practices available to help minimize the occurrence of power equipment-caused fires and to help utilities protect their equipment from wildfires. The coverage spans fire retardants and vegetation management to various technologies used by utilities. The content also outlines methods utilities should undertake to materially decrease the costs, financial risks and ability to maintain insurance coverage associated with powerline-initiated wildfires. Finally, utility personnel will benefit from real-life examples that detail multi-agency responses and the challenges associated with maintaining system reliability during wildfires.

You can download a free copy of this e-book at:

February Feature Articles

In this issue of T&D World, you will find featured articles providing in-depth coverage about how utilities are addressing the challenges of wildfires first hand.

Bonneville Power Administration is taking a proactive approach to wildfire mitigation through a focus on its vegetation management program, performing corrective work on its transmission system and ramping up its level of inspections.

SDG&E also began its wildfire journey over a decade ago when the San Diego region experienced unprecedented levels of destruction from firestorms in October of 2007. This article will discuss how SDG&E makes system hardening, vegetation management, and community outreach a top priority.

T&D World Leadership Forum

I’m also very excited to announce a new event series, T&D World Leadership Forum. The first event in this series will be held on May 18-20, 2020 at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, U.S., where we will address the topic of wildfires and risk mitigation. This utility-led event will advance the entire industry through a serious, comprehensive and compelling dialogue on the issues, best practices and potential solutions for utility wildfires.

The keynote speakers for this event will be joining us from Australia! They are Phillip Bryant from AusNet Services and Dene Ward with Powercor, and are both global experts in this area. In February 2009, utilities in the state of Victoria dealt with one of Australia’s all-time worst bushfires, known as “Black Saturday.” As many as 400 individual bushfires were recorded. There were 173 fatalities at an estimated cost of AUS$4.4 billion. The news reports associated with this event read similarly to those from our own utility wildfire events on the West Coast of the United States. As a result of these events, the Australian utilities have developed wildfire and risk mitigation programs that really are the epitome of global best practices. I believe we can all learn a lot from their experiences.

Other topics discussed at this event will include: risk management, corrective actions, groundbreaking technologies, analytics, policy/regulatory considerations, as well as industry and government collaboration. No matter your role in utility wildfire mitigation programs, this event is for you. The wildfire problem is exceedingly complex across the utility organization, but there are several stakeholders outside utility walls that need to be brought together to create a holistic solution. This event will bring together industry peers, consultants and government agencies who are tackling this challenge to network and develop new skills for their utility.

The host utilities are Portland General Electric and PaciCorp.

Register at

Additionally, we are currently seeking best-in-class speakers to share their knowledge at this event. If you or a colleague have a story to share, please submit a session proposal using the same link listed above.

I look forward to seeing you all there to advance the maturity of every utility’s wildfire risk mitigation program.

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