The climate crisis catches utilities off guard

In California, Pacific Gas & Electric modernizes its transmission network to avoid a repeat of 2018, when a broken power line started...


In California, Pacific Gas & Electric modernizes its transmission network to avoid a repeat of 2018, when a broken power line started the campfire, which killed 85 people and forced the utility into bankruptcy. But PG&E warned that it could take a decade to complete the work. In July, the utility told regulators that its equipment may have started the Dixie Fire, which has already burned 200,000 acres north of Sacramento.

And adaptation will not be cheap. A recent report from ICF International, a consulting firm, estimated that utilities faced a $ 500 billion shortfall to fortify their systems against known climate risks.

To pay for wildfire protection, Pacific Gas & Electric has asked California regulators to approve a $ 5.5 billion rate hike for customers from 2023 to 2026, which could increase the average residential bill by about $ 430 per year. PG&E take into account bury 10,000 miles of power lines underground, which could cost up to $ 30 billion more.

In the meantime, many residents are finding ways to keep the lights on when the utility cannot.

Maureen Kennedy has spent this spring investigating solar power and battery power at her home in Inverness, northwest of San Francisco, amid growing anxiety over the PG&E power cuts.

“Your utility is so unreliable that you have to think about spending $ 18,000 on solar power and battery backup,” said Ms. Kennedy, a retired real estate broker.

A spokesperson for PG&E declined requests for interviews with utility officials.

Caroline Winn is the general manager of San Diego Gas & Electric, which pioneered many techniques that other utilities have adopted for wildfires. His company began receiving calls and visits from utility workers in Oregon and places as far away as Australia, seeking advice on fire prevention.

But now Ms Winn is worried about another threat of climate change: rising sea levels, which could flood four of the company’s coastal substations over the next decades. “The climate does not stay the same,” Ms. Winn said. “It’s getting worse. It’s not just a California problem. It’s a global problem.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The climate crisis catches utilities off guard
The climate crisis catches utilities off guard
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