SAN DIEGO–As conversations about climate change and wildfires continue to be at the forefront of California policy discussions, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has developed a comprehensive 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan (the Plan), designed to help prevent electric equipment-related fires, improve the resiliency of the regional power grid to withstand extreme weather conditions, and enhance the company’s highest priority: keeping customers and the communities it serves safe.
The Plan builds upon the wildfire mitigation programs SDG&E has been developing and implementing over the past decade. Submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 6 in accordance with Senate Bill 901, the Plan outlines the ongoing practices and additional improvements the company will undertake beyond the more than $1 billion in investments that SDG&E has made over the past decade to adapt to the effects of the changing climate and threat of year-round wildfires.
“Every year, climate change presents new risks and challenges that we must prepare for and adapt to,” said Caroline Winn, chief operating officer for SDG&E. “Our engineers, fire science and climate adaption experts are continuing to develop and implement industry-leading wildfire mitigation tactics to help protect our communities. There is no higher priority for us than the safety of our customers.”
In addition to the actions that SDG&E intends to implement in the Plan, the company recognizes that state policy makers are actively examining additional solutions to proactively help mitigate wildfire risk throughout the state. SDG&E looks forward to hearing the recommendations from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission and encourages legislators and policy makers to act with a sense of urgency to continue enabling utilities to strengthen their wildfire mitigation programs for the benefit of all Californians.
SDG&E started aggressive efforts to address climate change and enhance power grid resiliency 10 years ago when rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, and severe weather patterns began correlating with the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires.
SDG&E’s approach to prudently managing the risk of its electrical infrastructure causing a wildfire is three-pronged, focusing on, but not limited to, ongoing efforts in the following areas:
1. Operations and Engineering: build and operate a fire-safety system with the following elements:
- System Hardening: Fire hardening projects, including upgrading wood poles to fire-resistant steel poles. More than 14,000 poles have been upgraded in the high-risk, fire-prone areas.
- Aggressive Vegetation Management: An inventory of 463,000 trees located near power lines is evaluated on an annual cycle. Prior to fire season, crews perform multiple annual hazard tree assessments and complete trimming to maintain proper clearance.
- Aircrane: A firefighting helitanker has been contracted for the 10th straight year and is available to all fire agencies in San Diego and South Orange counties (365 days a year), with the capacity to drop 2,650 gallons of water. In comparison, that’s equivalent to the amount of water carried by five fire engines.
2. Situational Awareness and Weather Technology: detect, monitor and forecast weather conditions and fire behavior by creating and maintaining the following tools and resources:
- Meteorology and Fire Science Capabilities: A network of 177 weather stations – America’s most-granular utility-owned network of its kind – provides readings of wind speed, humidity, and temperature in fire prone areas every 10 minutes. SDG&E’s team of five full-time meteorologists created and uses outage prediction and fire science modeling to help field crews pre-stage staffing and resources ahead of extreme weather and fire conditions.
- Alert SDG&E Cameras: Sixteen high-definition cameras mounted on mountaintops help with fire detection by enabling a live-streaming view of the many fire-prone areas.
- Wildland Fire Prevention Resources: SDG&E contracts for wildland fire prevention and ignition suppression services to provide fire prevention and ignition mitigation. Additional Industrial Fire Brigades are contracted to be available year-round and are specially trained in fighting fires involving electrical equipment and flammable liquids.
3. Customer Outreach and Education: Collaborating with local agencies to help ensure effective outreach and communications to the public is ongoing regarding preparedness.
- Regional Collaboration: Working in partnership with a host of regional stakeholders, including elected officials, nonprofit organizations and first responders, SDG&E maintains a multi-level outreach and education strategy to create public awareness of fire threats, fire prevention, and support during a wildfire or a Public Safety Power Shutoff event.
- Community Resource Centers: Responding to requests from the public, nine stationary Community Resource Centers were established in 2018 and serve as locations where impacted communities can go when circuits are shutoff in their area for extended Public Safety Power Shutoff events. These centers will provide up-to-date information, and basic needs like water, snacks and a place to charge cell phones.
- SDG&E’s long-standing commitment to wildfire safety over the years, including its recent Edison Award dedicated to wildfire safety,
To learn more about SDG&E’s long-standing commitment to wildfire safety over the years, including its recent Edison Award dedicated to wildfire safety, click here.