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SDG&E Announces Wildfire Safety Advancements for 2020 Wildfire Season

Sept. 22, 2020
Additional wildfire safety tools and enhancements to help prevent powerline wildfire ignitions, reduce impacts associated with PSPS.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is implementing new and additional wildfire safety tools and enhancements in 2020 that will help prevent powerline wildfire ignitions and reduce impacts associated with Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Some enhancements were tested early this fire season, by the first set of Santa Ana winds and elevated fire weather conditions last week, and the results were positive.

Enhancements include new physical improvements to the SDG&E electrical infrastructure that are targeted to result in a 25% to 30% reduction in the number of customers impacted by PSPS compared to 2019. The SDG&E is using a combination of new strategies, including strategic undergrounding, adding covered conductor, and grid reconfiguration to withstand more extreme weather conditions and reduce PSPS impacts to affected customers and communities.

"We recognize the impact PSPS have on our customers and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to minimize the risk of wildfires and the number of disruptions our customers experience in the future. Simply put, we want to get better and will continue to solicit feedback from affected customers and communities after every fire season," said Caroline Winn, chief executive officer for the SDG&E. "As a result of conversations over the last year, along with deeper analysis and intense planning, we fast-tracked multiple strategic infrastructure projects aimed at reducing or eliminating customer impacts associated with PSPS."

The SDG&E is also rolling out a new PSPS mobile application that allows users to receive real-time updates on weather conditions and PSPS events. The free app, currently available for download, includes important resource information, provides viewing access to Alert Wildfire cameras, and affords the user an opportunity to sign up for PSPS notifications for multiple locations within the SDG&E service territory.

"The creation of this app is the direct result of important feedback we received from our customers and stakeholders, and will go a long way in providing timely information that the general public and our customers need in order to help prepare for and navigate through PSPS events," said Winn.

Additional advancements this year include:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) System Enhancements
    • New AI-based predictive models are being used to increase accuracy of weather forecasts and help prevent powerline caused wildfires. 
  • Vegetation Management Program and Risk Analysis Improvements
    • The SDG&E continues to improve on its vegetation management practices. The team is using new analyses, specifically the Vegetation Risk Index, to identify potential tree-related hazards and address them before they impact the electrical system.  
  • Additional Microgrids
    • To build additional community resilience, the SDG&E is constructing four new microgrids in its service territory. They will be located at the Ramona Air Attack Base, Cameron Corners, Butterfield/Agua Caliente, and Shelter Valley. These microgrids will allow communities and critical facilities to remain energized during a PSPS.
  • Enhanced Inspections Using Drones
    • More than 30,000 poles have been assessed using drones in the SDG&E's highest-risk areas. The SDG&E was the first utility in the state to receive FAA approval for drone use.
  • Situational Awareness Enhancements
    • The SDG&E's weather stations network is being expanded and paired with more sectionalizing switches to be even more surgical on only turning off the most endangered communities.
  • Generator Program Expansion
    • Medical baseline customers who experienced a PSPS in 2019 have been offered a portable generator and 300 whole house generators are being offered to qualifying customers. Additionally, another 1000 generators are being significantly subsidized for customers in the highest fire-risk areas.
  • Advanced Protection Systems
    • The SDG&E is deploying falling conductor protection that allows for the ability to quickly shut off power to that conductor before it hits the ground. The SDG&E has also installed high-speed relays that reduce the amount of energy into a fault and diminish the likelihood of an ignition.
  • Enhanced Partnership with 2-1-1 San Diego and Orange County
    • The SDG&E has expanded its partnership with 2-1-1 San Diego and Orange County to help disseminate important information about PSPS and wildfire safety preparations, and help provide resources to affected communities. 

To view the 2020 Wildfire Safety Advancements video, visit here.

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