With temperatures reaching well above 100 degrees in the Sacramento Valley through the weekend, PG&E offers tips to customers on how to stay safe and cool while also conserving energy.
PG&E does not anticipate any Public Safety Power Shutoffs or rotating outages in the coming week. The wet winter delayed California’s wildfire season.
According to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, there have had 2,251 wildfires this year which have burned 7,601 acres as of June 26. That compares to the YTD five-year average of 3,067 wildfires which burned 28,875 acres.
Still, power outages do occur and high temperatures can cause equipment failure. PG&E has also enabled circuits in high-fire threat areas with Enhanced Power Line Safety Settings (EPSS), which will shut power off on a circuit within a tenth of a second should a disturbance be detected. This helps prevent wildfires caused by tree or objects coming into contact with power lines.
PG&E is preparing for the heat. This includes the use of outage prediction models that help us determine the potential timing, location and number of power outages.
PG&E is utilizing the latest technology to restore power more quickly and efficiently during a heat event. This includes the installation of automated equipment that “self-heals” the grid as well as timely and accurate outage data from our SmartMeter network.
PG&E routinely practices its preparedness and response to weather events and other emergencies through company exercises and through drills with local first responders.
Energy Saving Tips
- When Cooler Outside, Bring the Cool Air in: If the outside air is cool in the night or early morning, open windows and doors and use fans to pre-cool your home when possible.
- Close your shades in the summer: Sunlight passing through windows heats your home and makes your air conditioner work harder. You can block this heat by keeping blinds or drapes closed on the sunny side of your home.
- Cool down with a fan: Fans keep air circulating, allowing you to raise the thermostat a few degrees and stay just as comfortable while reducing your air conditioning costs.
- Clear the area around your AC: Your air conditioning unit will operate better if it has plenty of room to breathe. The air conditioner's outdoor unit, the condenser, needs to be able to circulate air without any interruption or obstruction.
- Replace filters as needed: Dirty air filters make your air conditioner work harder to circulate air. By cleaning or replacing your filters monthly, you can improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.
- Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting: Every degree you lower the thermostat means your air conditioner has to work even harder to keep your home cool.
- Unplug electronics when not in use: Electronics like cell phone chargers, entertainment systems, coffee makers and more continue to draw energy even when turned off. Unplug them to avoid unnecessary energy use.
Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) Overview
- For the safety of our customers and communities, PG&E has enhanced safety settings on our powerlines that automatically turn off power within one-tenth of a second if a wildfire threat is detected. These settings are known as Enhanced Powerline Safety Setting or EPSS.
- This measure is a proven wildfire prevention tool. In 2022, we saw a more than 68% reduction CPUC-reportable ignitions in High Fire-Threat Districts on distribution powerlines (compared to the weather-normalized 2018-2020 average) in CPUC-reportable ignitions on EPSS-enabled lines in High Fire-Threat Districts (compared to the 2018-2020 average).
- If ignitions occur, the size of fires are much smaller thanks to EPSS. In 2022, there was a 99% decrease in acres impacted by ignitions As measured by fire size from electric distribution equipment (compared to the 2018-2020 average) despite increasingly dry conditions.
- By stopping ignitions, we help prevent wildfires from starting and spreading.
- Launched as a pilot in 2021, these settings were first implemented on a select number of circuits in high fire-risk areas. In 2021, an initial 45% of line miles in high fire-risk areas were protected by the safety settings.
- In 2022 and 2023, approximately 44,000 line miles are now EPSS-protected, protecting 1.8 million customers.
- While these enhanced safety settings help keep our customers safe and prevent wildfires, they can also result in unplanned power outages.
- It is important to note that the majority of customers protected by EPSS saw little to no outage activity in 2022. In fact, 58% of all EPSS-protected customers experienced zero outages on EPSS-enabled lines in 2022.
- That said, we know how difficult it is to be without power, which is why we are continuing to find ways to lessen the impact of power outages on our customers.
- This includes disabling the safety settings to increase reliability when it is safe to do so. For example, EPSS is disabled when wildfire risk is lower in areas that are experiencing rain, fog or other conditions that significantly increase fuel moisture levels.
- We analyze wildfire risk conditions daily to determine when safety settings are needed to protect customers.
- We are also continuously evaluating the success of EPSS and look to employ innovations to fill any gaps. This includes using new technology solutions such as partial voltage detection and downed conductor technology that build upon the operational mitigations of EPSS and Public Safety Power Shutoffs. These new technologies detect potential threats to the electric grid and rapidly reduce or shut off power to help prevent wildfire ignitions.
- Following an outage on an EPSS-protected line, crews must patrol the portion of the circuit where the power outage occurred — and perform any necessary repairs — prior to restoring power.
- The patrols will be conducted either on the ground or in the air, ideally during daylight hours. In some cases, customers may see helicopters or drones performing aerial patrols.
- The length of the power outage and the portion of customers restored varies depending on the time and location that it occurs, as well as the severity of any damage. In rural and difficult terrain, crews may not be able to safely patrol the system at night, and patrols with limited access will take longer.
- To help get the power back on faster following an outage, we have installed fault indicators across our electric system. This technology helps patrol crews visually identify with precision where on a line a fault occurs. As a result, crews will be able to identify power outage causes and restore power more quickly.
- These improvements resulted in a 56% shorter average outage duration in 2022, compared to the pilot period in 2021. If outages occur, customers deserve timely and accurate information. Customers will be notified when an outage occurs, and restoration updates will be provided until the power is back.
- To stay informed during an outage, customers can update their contact information at pge.com/myalerts.
EPSS Customer Resources
- We have resources available to help our customers prepare for power outages and stay safe, including:
- The Generator and Battery Rebate Program for financial assistance in the purchase of a qualifying generator or battery. In 2023, we are expanding funding and eligibility to include customers who live in Tier 2 and 3 High Fire-Threat Districts and/or are served by an EPSS-protected circuit.
- The Portable Battery Program, which provides backup batteries for qualified customers who rely on medical devices. In 2023, eligibility requirements include Medical Baseline and Self-Identified Vulnerable customers with assistive technology or durable medical equipment who have also experienced:
- At least one PSPS in 2021 or
- Five or more outages on an EPSS-protected circuit in 2022.
- A free Backup Power Transfer Meter for easy, quick and safe connection to a generator during a power outage. This offer is available to customers who live in Tier 2 and 3 High Fire-Threat Districts and/or are served by an EPSS-protected circuit.
- The Safety Action Center for information on how to create a safety plan and build or stock an emergency kit.
- Additional information on customer support resources and preparedness tips can be found at pge.com/epss.
- Public safety partners and some community-based organizations also have access to our new, secure online Outage Portal which provides data focused on circuits and power outages occurring on powerlines protected by the safety settings.
- The latest information on the EPSS Program is available in our 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Plan. To learn more, visit pge.com/wildfiremitigationplan.
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