One week ago, PG&E (California electric utility) cut power to about 2 million people in Northern and Central California, saying the outages were needed due to high winds and dry conditions that could spark wildfires. The power was for days for many customers and 12-24 hours for most of the rest.
The wind gusts only reached about 40 mph in some areas. Many areas that had power cutoff with very little wind. Wind speeds were averaging 5-15 mph.
The number of power shutoffs will decline over the next decade as PG&E reroutes the electric grid so it can shut off power to smaller areas, invests in microgrids to keep power on during emergencies and updates thousands of miles of power lines in fire-prone areas.
The power shutoff cost businesses and customers billions of dollars. Some restaurants, grocery stores and ice cream shops each lost tens of thousands of dollars in business and spoiled goods.
Long-term widespread power outages cost businesses and people billions of dollars. The SF Bay Area has a GDP of about $900 billion. Disrupting all business for an entire day would be $2.5 billion. The PG&E outage affected about 30% of the Bay Area for extended times.
There is also the risk to the lives of people who depend upon medical equipment. The communication of the outage was poorly handled.
This level of minor “wind events” will likely mean one to four major shutoffs every year for fourteen years.
In Florida a few days ago, nearly 10,000 customers were left without power, vehicles were turned over and a middle school was severely damaged after a tornado touched down in central Florida on Friday night, as rain and high winds from Tropical Storm Nestor battered the state. At 1 p.m. ET, Nestor’s winds were 45 mph, down from maximum sustained winds of 60 mph Friday evening.
PG&E had less wind and the PG&E outage affected 200 times more people than the Florida Tropical storm.
Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&E’s community wildfire safety program, estimated that it could take 10 to 14 years for PG&E to finish updating about 7,100 miles of power lines in high fire risk areas, and 8 years to improve vegetation management on 25,000 miles of lines in high-risk areas.
SOURCES- KQED, Foxnews
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
47 thoughts on “PG&E Estimates 2029-2033 Until They Fix Grid Fire Danger Problems”
The cameras and sensors are cheap. The labor is what is expensive. The Public Service Commission needs to mandate it and allow the utility to add it to their rate base.
Perhaps you should actually READ the California regulations. They are insane. To clear brush and trees… PG&E is forbidden to use non-union employees, or contractors, or temps. They MUST use full time, 12 month employment union members even though the clearance efforts are limited by weather to just a few months per year. They can’t sell the trees, can’t use helicopters or logging roads to remove the trees, must construct new “biofuel” power plants to burn the logs and brush. Can’t remove trees over 24″ regardless of risk. Any money used for hardening lines and replacing old poles and towers must be taken from executive salaries alone.
California law requires that only money taken directly from executive salaries and dividends be used to pay for such hardening of lines. And there are no dividends. Yes… insanity.
PG&E is bankrupt, not from the Camp fire but from lawsuits from previous fires. They have not issued a dividend since 2017 because of these many tens of billions of liabilities.
Utility level battery storage costs about ten-times more than fossil fuel generation. California’s electricity rates are already about twice the national average. The current discussions I’ve read talk about 6-8 hours of battery backup so anyway you look at it battery storage isn’t viable now or any time in the near future.
PG&E turns off power to avoid legal responsibility for fires no matter the actual risk – powerless power lines can’t be be blamed no matter what causes one. However, they are at the mercy of California’s environmental mania and have to spend money and resources meeting the 2030/60% renewable mandate, install thousands of car charging stations, buy electricity at above market rates from home solar, etc. All of this takes away from their primary function of safely providing electricity to its customers. As a highly regulated utility their expenses and profits are set by California, which effectively owns the decrepit state of the infrastructure.
the more crap the utility companies pull, the more people will transition over to solar, and now solar with storage. The short-sighted idiots don’t realize these actions will lead to their demise sooner rather than later.
You do know that Camp fire started on federally managed lands, and by percentage, burned through mostly federally managed land. There is no ‘California’ in this discussion. The state owns less than six percent of the land in the state. If there were brush clearance issues, take it up with the forestry service, who recently had their budget cut by the orange buffoon. .
Absolutely the most bullshit I’ve read all day. PG&E was sitting on four straight quarters of hefty profits in 2017, the year before the deadly Camp fire that KILLED eighty-some people (you can google the exact eye popping amounts). They did absolutely shit..zero…zilch, with that in regards to required general maintenance, upgrades and hardening their systems. Several of the towers involved in the issue were built in 1929.
It’s just another electoral system, supreme court and other localities don’t appear to have a problem with it being considered “rigged”. The locals voted the system in and they can vote it out if they don’t like it.
I’ve seen references to sentiments like “Democrats and Republicans Hate California’s Primary”, it must be on to something.
I don’t see how such situations could be considered “rigging”, the voters are free to pick their preferred rep and the top two most popular fight it out. I can see parties not liking this as it could loosen their strangle hold on the idiot masses.
I don’t get involve in such things, but the best form of government is whatever mix that allows absolutely nothing to get done.
What cost are passive IR cameras that can detect arcs or load issues?
Should absolutely be doing something along these lines though, why the heck aren’t they covering their transmission poles with sensors?
Cameras for inspection, so they don’t need to keep sending stupidly expensive helicopter missions out for inspections.
Current sensors to detect where breaks in the line exist, where electrical resistance is greatest, etc.
Any EE professionals have a feel for these ideas or other possible sensor solutions here?
lol and the answer is top 2 primary. Sounds like its rigged because there are too dern many people who disagree with you.
Oh, come on, the fires are only a recent phenomenon because they don’t get do do controlled burns, AND they don’t get to clear brush.
California has been catching fire on a regular basis since before humans lived there. But it took horrible fire management to make it a large scale problem.
Top two primary. My brother gets faced with two Democrats, and no write in vote, in the general election.
It’s the “no write in vote” part that really offends; I really think that violates the republican form of government guarantee; They no longer settle for making it merely inconvenient to vote for somebody other than the candidates they approve of, they’ve made it illegal.
Untrue, my house supplements power to the grid but as of now it’s down. And you see me here typing. You know there are such a thing as Tesla packs to store power for a couple days?
Not true at all, adding precautions isn’t hemmed by ‘green hysteria’ but instead by a company that didn’t want to spend money to secure the grid. Also this wouldn’t be happening if we didn’t burn hydrocarbons for the last 100 years, these fires are a recent phenomena.
Ok buddy just peddle conspiracy theories to explain this, fact is they get elected because people WANT them there and not because of some grand conspiracy. Also for PG&E they should be prosecuted for those who thought it best not to secure the grid. And if your bro is mad about the people being legitimately elected then maybe he should run.
Can you link to this paperwork?
So… they’ll immediately crack down on a potential rival?
Well, that depends on what the actual regulation actually is.
There appears to be two stories.
Story 1. Some dodgy scam by the big power companies that it is illegal to have an independent solar system that is not turned off with the grid.
Story 2. IF you have a feedback system then the grid is an integral part of your solar system; needed to stabilize and balance the rapidly fluctuating power supply and usage in a normal house. As a result it is both dangerous to the grid workers AND it just doesn’t work if the grid isn’t running. So it needs to turn off.
If you want to be independent then you need a battery bank big enough to substitute for the grid in terms of power balancing and you need a legally certified cut-out that separates your system from the grid in the event the grid is down.
But this second sort of system is much more expensive than the pure feed-in system, so if you buy any of the cheap systems then you get mandatory shutdowns.
This second story isn’t a California thing, it applies across the world because it’s required by the current state of solar and solar inverter technology.
Some commenters claim that Story 1 is the truth. Some say that Story 2 is the case. So unless someone can actually link to the actual regulation we don’t know.
And I’ll bet that even if story 2 is the case, you’ll get saleswombats and company websites that tell you the 1st story to stop you from looking for a better product than what they are trying to sell you.
It sounds less like a valid safety regulation and more like a lobbying effort by the power companies to protect their backs against spreading renewables encroaching on their profits.
Wow, a helicopter crew in the age of drones?
Was it for equipment movement or site observation?
Reporting progressive election rigging to the FBI is like reporting a circumcision to a Rabbi.
Yes, the real reason their equipment isn’t safe for the environment is environmental regulations……
I’m not sure if you actually understand the huge contradiction in you argument, but it’s obvious to anyone with a lick of common sense.
The environment is the very thing they fear catching fire, clearly the problem is not too many regulations, but a lack of the right ones when the current power lines and support equipment were installed.
That’s assuming that they are even conforming to regulations at the moment, which I highly doubt given the area they quoted that any inspector would need to cover to ensure conformance was being observed.
This was exactly the problem with regulation and conformance inspection that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster – bad safety actors in large profit driven corporations, coupled with a lack of necessary inspectors to cover all the ground in the remit of the conformance department of the government.
Can someone link to this regulation?
We have some people saying that the law is one thing, and then other people saying they already bought an off-the-grid solar-battery system.
What is the nature of this “rigging”? Is it ballot tampering, gerrymandering, voter suppression etc ?
If you suspect that election/voter fraud is occurring, you should report it to your state or territorial election office. You can also report it to a local FBI office or local U.S. attorney’s office.
Sure – except that California regulation requires you to feed your solar energy back into the grid. So when you ain’t got no grid, you also ain’t got no solar. That’s what happens when you let politicians do your engineering.
Hey, remember back in the 50s when Soviet elections were exactly as you just described, and Americans held them up to the world as examples of totalitarian tyranny? Wow, those were the days, eh?
10 to 14 years??! Since California is now a People’s Paradise, all collectives should be required to solve their problems with no longer than Five Year Plans.
They should try looking for hot spots on their transmission system. And install install infrared red cameras and sensors on their transmission towers.
I was driving through feather river canyon yesterday (saturday), where the camp fire started. There were a couple PG&E construction crews blocking off the road one lane at a time, and another helicopter crew hovering over one of the power lines. Looks like an expensive operation. That canyon seems pretty unique, too many hydro plants in a very tight, windy spot.
What’s magical about it? A homeowner can buy a solar/battery system to make them independent of the grid if needed. A subdivision or development can do the same cheaper and more efficiently. The fact that very few have actually done it yet doesn’t make it a fantasy. It’s costly. If it’s just “green” or for hypothetical emergencies people put it off as low priority. It ain’t so low priority if you’re in the dark. The same system and a BEV and there are no worries about gas stations shut down for lack of power.
Solar panel systems that are designed to feed excess power to the grid are necessarily shut off to keep the grid safe for repairs during blackouts. Micro grids with their own batteries and internal management don’t need to be under the grids control, they can be responsible for shutting themselves off from the external grid.
This will add a lot of urgency to deploying Solar-battery based micro grids in California which was already the biggest market. Power outages going from just a theoretical possibility to a whole season every year will take it from just something that’s sorta green and prudent to something very practical and immediate to people sweating in the dark.
PGE is hemmed in by environmental regulations and renewable mandates. Blame the real culprit. Green hysteria.
Ok apparently from what I get reading the paperwork…
It doesn’t matter if you have solar panels, a backup diesel generator or ANYTHING else. If it is hooked up into the system “your houses system” then somehow PG&E has authority over it and can control it.
Sounds like this company needs to be taken out. Its killed people
KILLED PEOPLE YET NOTHING HAS HAPPENED TO THEM.
I’m sure he’s heard of it. And it could even work in the case of people who inexplicably own cars that they don’t need to be able to drive.
Natural gas electric power plants modified to use renewable methanol would be much cheaper to build than solar power plants + battery storage.
Using renewable methanol in modified natural gas power plants is carbon neutral.
My niece ended up driving 7 hours home from college last weekend due to the power being out at her campus. Power came back on 2 hours after she got home.
My bro would like to vote out the authors of this insanity, but they’ve got things so rigged that nobody but them is even on the general election ballot for him to vote for.
Call it “renewable” natural gas and you might be in business…
Good luck actually getting anything built, though. Many of the disrupted communities have fully embraced the “solar + batteries” magical thinking.
It would be interesting to see an analysis of the cost of proper maintenance vs community scale microgrids vs every customer getting their own portable generator.
Hey Elon, ever hear of vehicle to grid? Northern CA is tesla, and pv country. I hear its windy too.
Embrace the full chademo standard.
“Natural gas electric power plants”… did you miss the part about this being California, which has recently passed into law a mandate to be completely carbon neutral on power generation, by 2040 if I recall correctly?
We are obviously one lawsuit away from fixing this.
Small and large California communities that could be affected by fire related power outages simply needed to have sufficient local backup power.
Natural gas electric power plants are the cheapest and easiest back up power plants to build. And natural gas electric power plants can come in a large variety of sizes and electrical capacities.
But it might be difficult to store and supply natural gas to remote communities. However, natural gas electric power plants can be easily and cheaply modified to use– renewable methanol (wood alcohol). And methanol can be easily stored practically anywhere, almost indefinitely, for emergency power. Methanol fuel cells are already used for backup power for homes.
Renewable methanol can be produced from the pyrolysis and synthesis of urban garbage and sewage, agricultural hydrocarbon waste, and forest waste (dead California trees and other potentially hazardous forest foliage).
Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea suing them every time the wind blows.
Consequence free actions are a myth.
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