Wildfire season has started. What is Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) doing to reduce wildfire risk? In September of 2023, Amanda Peeters interviewed spokesperson Fiona Chan in Cantonese to find out more.
In the last few years, PG&E has implemented many policies an plans with the goal of reversing or minimizing the negative impact of wildfires. What the interview uncovered was that PG&E is on track to meet this year’s goals for the largest project in the nation to bury power lines underground. The utility plans to bury 10,000 miles of lines in high-fire risk areas, and the work is ramping up county by county, mile by mile.
However, the above project will take many years to complete. In the meantime, PG&E implemented the Public Safety Power Shufoffs (PSPS) program, which many of us have experienced in the last few years. PG&E is supposed to notify residents in the area of such shutoffs within 24-48 hours prior to the actual shutoff. Detailed information about PSPS can be found on the PGE website:
What many don’t know is another program called EPSS from PG&E. EPSS stands for Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings. EPSS is essentially a hair trigger mechanism to very quickly turn power off if their infrastructure senses some sort of disruption. The powerlines will turn off within one-tenth of a second if a problem is detected. That disruption could be caused by a power line breaking & hitting the ground or a tree (both potential fire starts), by a bird or other animal striking the line, or a number of other things.
PG&E turns on this system when they judge fire danger to be higher. Once this system is turned on, power outages on enabled circuits can occur without any notice. Before re-energizing the lines PG&E inspects the entire line – which can take many hours. PG&E normally does not give any notice to the county when EPSS is turned on and provides no notice to customers.