Devastation from California’s wildfires has been at record levels in recent years. Last year our wildfire season resulted in over 4 million acres burned in 9,600 fires -- 31 people died. The economic costs to homeowners, utilities, ratepayers, insurers and local governments has been catastrophic.
While electric utility infrastructure has accounted for less than ten percent of wildfires historically, downed power lines have been responsible for about half of California’s most destructive fires. As a result, in 2012 the California Public Utilities Commission granted electric utilities authority to shut off power during excessive wind or heat events to protect public safety. As we all know, these Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) have been increasingly common during extreme Santa Ana winds. Statewide, between 2013 and the end of 2019, California averaged 8,000 wildfires per year, and the state’s three largest energy companies, including Southern California Edison and SDG&E, conducted 33 PSPS “de-energizations.”
In the past, preemptive power shutoffs were often confined largely to rural areas. Today however, housing has spread into many rural areas, with more than a third of our housing now located in the “wildland-urban interface,” meaning power shutoffs are now impacting more Californians.
Obviously, wildfires result in lost lives, economic devastation, and massive property loss. But power shutoffs are also extremely disruptive, costly, and in many cases can be dangerous for those relying on electric power for their health and safety. But when planned outages occur, here are some links that will help:
- For SDG&E customers, sign up for PSPS notifications and more information at: https://www.sdge.com/public-safety-power-shutoff
- For SCE customers, please visit: https://www.sce.com/wildfire/psps
Fighting wildfires remains a top personal priority (see here). This session my Caucus and I will continue to do all we can to reduce this severe threat to life and property.