California continues to experience the effects of climate change, which is increasing the intensity, frequency and duration of heat waves, such as the one experienced last month. To protect our customers and communities, PG&E has launched several safety and wildfire prevention efforts in recent years that can result in unplanned power outages, including when extreme climate events damage electric equipment or when hazards are detected on power lines.
We understand and regret the impact that losing power has on our customers’ lives and know that recent power outages experienced by some customers in Morgan Hill over several consecutive days were extremely difficult. We apologize for the disruptions these outages caused and want you to know the steps we are taking to improve reliability in your community.
The power outages that many of our customers in Morgan Hill experienced in September were caused by a variety of factors, primarily driven by the extreme heat event experienced across California, the most severe ever recorded in September in the state, and the corresponding record-breaking energy use. Approximately 62% of the outages experienced during the week of Sept. 5 were driven by equipment failures due to the heat and excessive load on our overhead and underground systems.
Another factor that led to some power outages involves power lines that have Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) enabled. These settings reduce the likelihood of potential wildfire ignitions by turning off power automatically within one-tenth of a second if a hazard, such as a tree limb, strikes a powerline in high-fire risk areas.
PG&E is constantly improving our electric system, processes and technology to evolve our operations to meet the ongoing climate change that has brought worsening drought conditions and increasing temperatures across California. We continue to evaluate how to make the necessary improvements to protect our system from increased temperatures—including here in Morgan Hill.
In addition to immediately repairing equipment affected by the heat event, we have:
– Installed fault indicators to help quickly identify outage locations so that we more quickly restore power;
– Conducted vegetation management on trees near power lines to limit future hazards; and
– Adjusted the sensitivity of equipment settings to limit outages without sacrificing wildfire safety and ignition mitigation.
A distribution capacity project coming to the city will further improve service reliability and limit the possibility for overstress of the equipment. We will:
– Establish a new circuit out of the Morgan Hill substation to take existing customers and provide increased margin to existing circuits during future heat events;
– Install 1,000 feet of new underground cable; and
– Provide more capacity to 1,000 feet of existing overhead conductors.
On Sept. 27, we joined the City of Morgan Hill for a town hall meeting to provide information about the recent power outages and the steps we are taking to reduce the likelihood of future outages and improve service reliability. A recording of the presentation can be found on our website at pge.com/firesafetywebinars.
PG&E has served Morgan Hill for decades. My office is in Morgan Hill and several members of our team live and work here. We understand how these outages impacted your homes and businesses. We will continue to work with city officials, keep the community updated as system improvements take place and do everything we can to maintain PG&E’s commitment to providing customers with safe and reliable service.
Vice President of PG&E’s South Bay/Central Coast Region