California State Auditor Reports on Electric Utility and Regulatory Agency Failures Related to CA Wildfires

The California State Auditor (CSA) recently issued a report excoriating the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), especially PG&E, as well as the state’s “Energy Safety Office,” for failures related to wildfires and to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).

The report is posted here.

Among other findings, the report states the following:

Page 7: Of the acreage burned by California wildfires between 2016 and 2020, 19% were burned due to fires caused by utilities. That percentage will likely increase when the second-largest fire in California history, caused by a utility in 2021, is included in an updated computation.

Page 17: The report found that utility lines in high fire areas bare (without insulation) are at greater risk of starting a fire. Nearly 40,000 miles of power lines, representing 54% of all distribution power lines in high fire areas, are bare. 80% of PG&E’s lines in high hazard zones are bare, compared to 23% of SCE’s and 11% of SDG&E’s.

Page 31: The three largest utilities have altered settings on their equipment, including circuit breakers and reclosers, resulting in unplanned power outages (unplanned outages) throughout the State.

Page 41: The Energy Safety Office approved mitigation plans despite identifying deficiencies in how utilities planned to prioritize mitigation activities. Subsequent external reviews established that these planning deficiencies were followed by a lack of mitigation efforts in areas of highest risk of wildfire.

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