SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA — San Diego Gas & Electric announced Thursday that it is implementing a slate of strategies designed to help prevent power line-sparked blazes and reduce the burdens of public-safety power shutoffs enacted during periods of high wildfire risk.
Some of the enhancements already have been put to test early this fire season, with positive results, according to the utility.
The programs, including “strategic” undergrounding of some equipment, target a 25% to 30% reduction, as compared with 2019, in the number of customers affected by preemptive blackouts during Santa Ana wind events and other periods of extreme wildfire danger, SDG&E reported.
“We recognize the impact public-safety power shutoffs 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,” said SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn. “Simply put, we want to get better and will continue to solicit feedback from affected customers and communities after every fire season.”
The utility has released a free mobile application that offers updates on weather conditions and public safety electrical outages, access to “Alert Wildfire” cameras, and the opportunity to sign up for power shutoff notifications.
Additional projects slated by SDG&E for completion this year include:
— new artificial intelligence-based predictive models designed to increase accuracy of weather forecasts and help prevent wildfires caused by electrical transmission equipment;
— additional vegetation management analyses to identify potential foliage hazards and address them before they affect the electrical system;
— four new “microgrids” that will allow communities to remain energized during public safety shutoffs;
— enhanced equipment inspections via drones;
— expansions of SDG&E’s network of weather stations;
— continuation of a program that offers subsidized home generators to qualifying residents for use during public safety blackouts;
— improved protective systems designed to rapidly reduce or shut off power to compromised equipment to reduce the likelihood of fires; and
— enhanced partnerships with the 2-1-1 San Diego service and Orange County to better disseminate information about public safety power shutoffs and safety preparations, and to help provide assistance to communities affected by wildfires and electrical service disruptions.