California’s San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison initiated Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) for some of their customers in the face of weather conditions that heightened the risk of wildfires.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) on Saturday, Oct. 26, reported that it had begun de-energization of its electrical lines as part of a PSPS and said the shutoff is expected to impact approximately 940,000 customers in 38 counties.
On the morning of Oct. 25, SDG&E said that moderate to strong Santa Ana winds were expected to peak in strength in the backcountry of San Diego County.
“Due to high winds and dangerous weather conditions power has been turned off for safety to approximately 16,000 customers in the communities of Julian, Ramona, Valley Center, Pauma Valley/Cuca Ranch, Descanso, Alpine, Boulevard, Cuyamaca, Guatay, Pine Valley, Jacumba, Santa Ysabel, Potrero, Dulzura, Campo, and Poway to help ensure public safety,” the utility said.
A Red Flag Warning remained in effect for San Diego County mountains and valleys and inland Orange County through 5 p.m. on Oct. 25. Additionally, a High Wind Warning for San Diego County mountains and valleys was in effect through 2 p.m. today.
“As weather trends become more certain, SDG&E adjusts where shutoffs are needed for safety in order to minimize customer impact to the greatest extent possible,” it said.
In a tweet sent over the weekend, SDG&E said that power had been restored to all its customers.
Southern California Edison
Meanwhile, Southern California Edison said that as of the morning of Oct. 25 power had been shutoff to 13,009 customers due to a PSPS. It said that another 132,697 customers were under PSPS consideration.
As with SDG&E, Southern California Edison set up a webpage dedicated to details related to PSPS activities.
Over the weekend, Southern California Edison reported that as of Oct. 27, 12:00 a.m., power remained shutoff for nine customers in Los Angeles County, while 162,037 customers were under PSPS consideration.
PG&E says new shutoff expected to impact around 940,000 customers
PG&E on Saturday, Oct. 26, reported that it had begun de-energization of its electrical lines as part of a PSPS. The PSPS event will impact customers in portions of 38 counties in the Northern and Southern Sierra Foothills, the North Bay and Mendocino, the Bay Area, the Central Coast and the Central Valley. “This PSPS action is based on forecasts of historic dry, hot and windy weather that poses a significant risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread,” PG&E said.
It said the shutoff is expected to impact approximately 940,000 customers in 38 counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.
Based on the latest weather forecast, the PSPS area has been expanded to include portions of Fresno and Madera Counties, and additional customers in Mariposa County and Yosemite National Park.
Once the high winds subside, PG&E said it would inspect the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event, and then restore power. “PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring the vast majority of customers within 48 hours after the weather has passed.”
A list of impacted customer counts and cities per county, is available at: pge.com/pspsupdates.
For PG&E, this is the third PSPS for the utility in October.
PG&E initiated a PSPS on October 23. PG&E reported Oct. 25 that the 99% of customers impacted by the PSPS on October 23 had their power restored as of 5 p.m., Oct. 25.
PG&E on Oct. 9 started shutting off power in 22 California counties, with shutoffs in a dozen more counties set to start at noon in an effort to prevent wildfires caused by high winds taking down power lines. Approximately 738,000 customers in 34 counties were impacted by the widespread, severe wind event.
PG&E files electric incident report with CPUC in response to Kincade Fire
Meanwhile, PG&E on Oct. 24 filed an Electric Incident Report with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) related to the Kincade Fire, which was burning in Sonoma County, Calif.
“Weary fire crews took advantage of calming conditions early Friday, but the destructive Kincade Fire in Sonoma County had doubled in size over the last 24 hours, destroying 49 structures including homes, cabins, winery buildings and vineyards in California’s picturesque wine country,” CBS San Francisco reported on Oct. 25.
By 3 p.m. on Oct. 23, PG&E had conducted a PSPS and turned off the power for safety to approximately 27,837 customers in Sonoma County, including Geyserville and the surrounding area, the utility said. “PG&E crews have been on the ground since last night supporting CAL FIRE's efforts to fight the Kincade Fire and make the area safe,” it said.
As part of the PSPS, PG&E distribution lines in these areas were deenergized. Following PG&E's established PSPS protocols and procedures, transmission lines in these areas remained energized, it said.
“Those transmission lines were not deenergized because forecast weather conditions, particularly wind speeds, did not trigger the PSPS protocol. The wind speeds of concern for transmission lines are higher than those for distribution,” the utility said in a news release report to the report filed with the CPUC.
PG&E's report noted that at approximately 9:20 p.m. on October 23, 2019, PG&E became aware of a transmission level outage on the Geysers #9 Lakeville 230kV line when the line relayed and did not reclose, deenergizing the line.
At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 24, a responding PG&E troubleman patrolling the Geysers #9 Lakeville 230 kV line observed that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) had taped off the area around the base of a transmission tower in the area of the Kincade Fire.
The transmission tower was inspected earlier this year as part of PG&E's Wildfire Safety Inspection Program, PG&E said.
On site CAL FIRE personnel brought to the troubleman's attention what appeared to be a broken jumper on the same tower.
PG&E said that this information was preliminary and that it was continuing to investigate.
Kincade Fire impacts to NCPA geothermal facilities
The Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) on Oct. 25 reported that the Kincade Fire was actively burning adjacent to NCPA’s Geysers geothermal facilities.
Due to the proximity of the fire, NCPA has initiated its Emergency Response Plan for geothermal plants 1 and 2. “For the safety of personnel and visitors on-location, our standard response practice is to order an immediate evacuation of the affected facilities while further situational assessment continues. All personnel, contractors, and visitors on-location have been directed to evacuate immediately. The facility will be re-opened only when the safety and security of personnel and property can be assured,” NCPA reported.
The plant operations have been ceased and will remain offline until further notice. “We are committed to restoring power generation from facilities as soon as deemed safe and possible. In the interim, NCPA is working with the California Independent System Operator to ensure that its other generation resources are available to support system reliability.”
NCPA said it would continue to closely monitor the situation and coordinate with CAL FIRE and local officials.
NCPA members include municipalities, a rural electric cooperative, and other publicly owned entities for which the not-for-profit agency provides such services as the purchase, aggregation, scheduling, and management of electrical energy.
Newsom declares statewide emergency
On Sunday, Oct. 27, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency due to the effects of the unprecedented high-wind events that have resulted in fires and evacuations across the state.
The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County has burned more than 30,000 acres to date and has led to the evacuation of almost 200,000 people and threatened hundreds of structures, Newsom’s office noted.
The Tick Fire in Southern California has also destroyed structures, threatened homes and critical infrastructure, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.
As of Oct. 27, there were over 3,000 local, state and federal personnel, including first responders, assisting with the Kincade Fire alone.
Newsom sends letters to IOUs, launches $75 mil program
On Oct. 24, Newsom sent a letter to SDG&E, PG&E and Edison International, the parent utility of Southern California Edison, said that the utilities had to adhere to previously agreed protocols for their power shutoff decisions and coordinate with state and local officials to protect public safety and limit impacts during these events.
“Inconsistent application by all three of California’s IOUs of previously agreed protocols for PSPS actions, have undermined efforts to coordinate with first responders to protect public safety during these events,” wrote Newsom. “Going forward, it is critical that your utilities adhere to the agreements and protocols to provide transparent and consistent notification to state and local government officials, to provide adequately resourced Community Resource Centers, and to plan for and meet the needs of your vulnerable customers.”
In their previously agreed protocols, the utilities committed to providing at least 72 hours notice of a potential PSPS decision to state and local government emergency management officials, an appropriate level of detail on the location and duration of potential PSPS impacts in a universal format, and adequately resourced and accessible services for Californians to seek and receive information and basic access to energy sources, Newsom’s office said.
On Oct. 25, Newsom launched a local government PSPS resiliency program to mitigate the impact on Californians by supporting continuity of operations and efforts to protect public health, safety, and commerce in affected communities.
Newsom and the State Legislature included a $75 million one-time General Fund appropriation in the 2019 Budget Act to support state and local government efforts to protect public safety, vulnerable populations and individuals and improve resiliency in response to utility-led PSPS actions. The funding will focus on jurisdictions where there is heightened PSPS vulnerability.
Half of the funds will be allocated to local governments – at least $150,000 will be awarded to all 58 counties with additional funding based on county size and experience with PSPS. The cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, and Oakland will receive $500,000 each. A total of $8 million will support competitive grants available to other incorporated cities and $1.5 million will be available in competitive grants for tribal governments.
The grant funding can be used to secure equipment, such as generators and/or generator connections, fuel storage or other backup energy sources for essential facilities, such as fire stations, community centers, health facilities and other facilities that are critical to communities’ function during energy interruptions, backup emergency communications equipment, and developing and conducting plans that better prepare communities for PSPS events, including risk assessment for critical infrastructure and equipping resource centers for the public to access. The grants will be administered by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
The program provides $37.5 million for state agencies and departments to ensure continuity of operations and public services statewide.