CALIFORNIA, USA — On Tuesday, Californians got a glimpse of what to expect from the 2021 fire season and PG&E power shutoffs when the utility presented their plans to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Sumeet Singh, Chief Risk Officer and senior VP at PG&E, gave today’s presentation and answered questions from the CPUC CalFire and CalOES.
“Public safety power shutoffs are a necessary tool in preventing catastrophic wildfires and will only be used as a measure of last resort and never as a measure of first resort, especially in this environment,” said Singh.
Overall, thresholds for declaring a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) and how many are expected in 2021 remains largely the same. Singh said one of the main changes this year will be the use of new technology.
“Maximize the predictive skills by using machine learning models. A lot of what we’ve been using for the prior two years have been more the regression-based models. Now, we have a lot more predictive capabilities,” he said.
Singh said PG&E is using a new tool from a company called Technosylva, which is based in the US and Spain.
“Prior to this year, we did not have Technosylva fully deployed and operationalized, which we do now. And we use the output of that fire spread modeling as a direct input into our PSPS decision making process, so that’s another change from last year,” he said.
Mark Toney, the executive director at TURN, the utility reform network, a group working to hold utilities accountable for providing the cleanest, safest utilities and most affordable prices, reacted to PG&E’s plan.
“It’s encouraging to see the application of fire science clearly reflected in this document in a way that we simply haven’t seen before,” Toney said.
Still, Toney admitted, consumers only care about one thing in the end.
“This new plan will be an improvement if we actually see fewer, more targeted shutoffs and fewer fires,” he said.
Toney said PG&E is spending billions of dollars and looking to raise rates but customers need to see results. Toney suggested having zones where shutoffs don’t need to happen.
“Having no shutoff zones that grow geographically, that would make people see the progress that we’re not seeing now,” he said.
You can view the full presentation HERE.