California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company outlined new wildfire prevention plans to bankruptcy court on Wednesday. The plans include extending the range of transmission lines which can have their power shut off during fire danger: high wind, hot and dry conditions. The extended range adds hundreds of thousands of miles of transmission lines, and now includes high voltage transmission lines which often serve millions of customers in multiple communities downstream, communities which may be beyond the fire zone.
Safety vs. Convenience
The new plan puts all 5 million electric customers in the shut-off zone. The interconnectedness of the electric grid means those living outside of the high risk areas may lose power. Mark Toney, the director of the Utility Reform Network says PG&E has “failed to properly manage the grid and trim the trees”. He accuses the utility of avoiding costly upgrades and maintenance which would make California’s electrical distribution safe, instead placing the burden on customers.
“We’re paying them to keep the power on,” Toney said. “Now we’re paying them to shut us off. There’s an irony in that.”