USA – California regulators on Monday ordered wholesale changes in the wildfire mitigation plans of the state’s major utilities, which are aimed at gaining more data and standardization as well as increased accountability in reducing wildfire risks in 2020.
A new template from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and its Wildfire Safety Division (WSD) is in place, and regulators are seeking stakeholder input and utility data. The commission is taking comments until Jan. 7, with the new plans due Feb. 7.
“The WSD and the existing Safety and Enforcement Division will determine whether or not the actions proposed by each utility are appropriate to address the level of risk identified,” the order noted. The two units also will assess whether the plans “put utilities on a path to achieving the CPUC’s long-term wildfire risk reduction goals.”
To broaden the scope of work aimed at reducing wildfire risk, particularly regarding utility infrastructure and equipment, the CPUC plans to have the process intersect with two other related regulatory proceedings examining public safety power shutoffs and disaster relief.
Under wildfire mitigation laws passed earlier this year, utility plans were to be regulated by the WSD unit. It will process the 2020 plans, and using next year’s experience, refine the process for subsequent years, according to CPUC spokesperson Julie Hall.
“There is an emphasis on ‘risk-spend efficiency’ — maximizing the amount of risk reduction achieved per dollar spent,” the CPUC order stated. Using outcome-based metrics, utilities are required to quantify their planned investments aimed at fire mitigation.
Ultimately, the utilities’ metrics for reducing the risk of utility equipment sparking wildfires would need to include data collected from various state sources, including the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the CPUC order noted.