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PG & E aims to reduce the risk of wildfires by filling many power lines

Pacific Gas and Electric puts 10,000 miles of power lines underground on Wednesday to prevent wildfires that could lead utilities to bankruptcy courts, with the aim of demonstrating a determination to overcome the history of safety issues. Announced the plan.

The project, which involves about 10% of the routes currently on the ground, can cost tens of billions of dollars to implement. The announcement prompted long-time utility critics to ask how much the payers, not the shareholders, would bear.

The company, California’s largest utility, said the work would initially target the most vulnerable areas to wildfires and extend to the entire service area, including 5.5 million power customers in northern and central California. ..

The PG & E announcement came a few days after a preliminary report to state regulators stated: The equipment may have caused a Dixie fireOne of the state’s largest flames, burning at least 85,000 acres.The fire is spreading in Butte County, where there are utility equipment Caused a fire that destroyed the town of Paradise In 2018, 85 people died.

Power companies across the country are increasingly moving their power lines underground, but none have proposed a project on the scale of a PG & E plan. Currently, utilities have 27,000 miles of power lines underground, but they are generally not in areas at high risk of wildfires.

Patricia K, CEO of PG & E Corporation, the parent company of Utility. Poppe said:

This year, the company is laying 70 miles underground, so increasing the workload to 1,000 miles a year will be a breakthrough. “It’s a moonshot,” Poppe said on a phone call with reporters. “It’s a big goal, so it should be a shocking number.”

By comparison, President Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal Demands $ 73 billion to improve the country’s power grid.Spending is aimed at countering the effects of climate change, but the outlook for more transmission lines Instead, you need to increase your reliance on rooftop solar panels and battery storage..

Poppe, who previously held positions at General Motors and two power companies, said Appointed Chief Executive Officer of PG & E on January 1st As part of a post-company overhaul Emerged from bankruptcy.. She said the company had planned to announce an underground transmission line within a few months, but decided to announce it now due to growing public interest in fire protection.

Mark Tony, the secretary-general of the Utility Reform Network, which represents consumers before the Public Utility Commission and is often the enemy of PG & E, says reducing the risk of wildfires is a priority, but utilities are huge. Without burdening payers who said they needed to develop a plan to fund their projects. According to Tony, the project could cost about $ 4 million per mile, or $ 40 billion in total, based on a proposal for underground transmission lines previously submitted by PG & E to state regulators.

“We would have lived in a world where only wealthy people could afford electricity,” he said. “PG & E needs plans to reduce the greatest risk possible at the lowest possible cost for payers.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose also questioned his ability to fund such ambitious businesses without burdening consumers. “Assuming all PG & E payers win the lottery at the same time, it’s a PG & E right. You can do this,” said Likert. During the bankruptcy of PG & E, he sought to turn a utility into a co-operative, but failed. Not a public company.

The Public Utility Commission has stated that it will consider when the Public Utility Commission formally submits a PG & E project for review. This process involves a hearing.

Poppe said utilities want to cut costs per mile enough to reduce overall costs from $ 15 billion to $ 20 billion. “There is no price to pay for risk mitigation and safety,” she said. But she didn’t mention funding directly.

According to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group, about 18 percent of the country’s distribution lines, including those for almost all new residential and commercial development, are buried.

PG & E has been the focus of climate change impacts since a series of record wildfires began to burn in Northern California in 2017. Some of them were caused by the utility equipment.

For utilities I took a few steps To prevent fires, such as installing equipment to monitor weather conditions and shutting down lines by remote control. It sent crew to cut down tree branches that could come into contact with power lines and remove other vegetation, an increasing concern with California’s widespread drought situation.

However, the effectiveness of these efforts has been increasingly questioned, especially after the company reported that its equipment could have caused a Dixie fire. The wildfire season can take months to peak.

State regulators and courts have fined utilities billions of dollars for failing to maintain equipment and causing fires. After raising $ 30 billion for wildfire liability, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 and pleaded guilty to 84 manslaughter related to paradise fires last year.

This was the second felony sentence for utilities. 2016, PG & E Convicted of federal crime related to gas pipeline explosion Eight people died six years ago in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco. In that episode, the Public Utility Commission concluded that the company is more interested in profit than safety.

In recent years, PG & E has also become angry Millions of customers By turning off the power to prevent the equipment from catching fire in bad weather. Some people had no electricity for a week.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

PG & E aims to reduce the risk of wildfires by filling many power lines

Source link PG & E aims to reduce the risk of wildfires by filling many power lines

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