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CPUC Takes Steps to Improve Utility 2020 Wildfire Mitigation Plans

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Through a Ruling issued today, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is taking steps to ensure that the 2020 wildfire mitigation plans that utilities will submit focus on increasing the safe performance of utilities, reducing the need for Public Safety Power Shut-off events, creating more resilient communities, and providing results to help mitigate wildfires and their impacts on Californians.

The Ruling issued today seeks review and comment from parties to the CPUC’s Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans proceeding (R.18-10-007) on templates and other evaluative materials on which the CPUC will rely in 2020. The CPUC has developed a new process for submission and evaluation of utility wildfire mitigation plans in 2020 that will use 2019 data as a baseline and use a “maturity model” to evaluate electrical corporations’ progress over time in mitigating the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

The Ruling and templates are available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/SB901.

Assembly Bills 1054 and 111 provide for a transition of the wildfire mitigation plans work previously handled in a formal proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge to a process run by the newly created Wildfire Safety Division at the CPUC. It is expected that Wildfire Safety Division’s work in 2020 will result in lessons that cause further refinement of the process for subsequent years.

Parties to this proceeding may comment no later than Jan. 7, 2020.

Members of the public who would like to provide comment may email public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov and reference proceeding number R.18-10-007.

Wildfire mitigation plans are due from the utilities on Feb. 7, 2020.

Background

Pursuant to Senate Bill 901 (2018), the CPUC has required electrical corporations to submit wildfire mitigation plans assessing the level of wildfire risk and outlining their plans to address this risk. The Wildfire Safety Division and the Safety and Enforcement Division will determine whether or not the actions proposed by each utility are appropriate to address the level of risk identified and whether the plan will put the utility on a path to achieving the CPUC’s long-term wildfire risk-reduction goals.

California’s investor-owned electric utilities submitted their first wildfire mitigation plans to the CPUC in 2019. Based on lessons learned from the 2019 submissions and the 2019 wildfire season, the CPUC’s Wildfire Safety Division and the Safety and Enforcement Division are implementing changes to the wildfire mitigation plan process.

The revised Wildfire Mitigation Plans Guidelines represent a milestone in the evolution of the wildfire mitigation plans process and are intended to aid in the evaluation of utilities’ wildfire mitigation efforts and ensure consistency with the CPUC’s long-term wildfire goals.

 

CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division Testimony Alleges Violations by SoCalGas in Aliso Canyon Leak

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Today the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Safety and Enforcement Division publicly issued its opening testimony in the CPUC’s investigation into the leak that started on October 23, 2015, at Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility.

The testimony will inform the CPUC’s proceeding (I.19-06-016), which is expected to conclude in late 2020. Opening testimony from intervening parties to the proceeding is due Dec. 20, 2019, and SoCalGas’s testimony replying to opening testimony is due February 21, 2020.

The Safety and Enforcement Division’s testimony alleges numerous safety, health, and recordkeeping violations and multiple instances in which SoCalGas did not cooperate with the Safety and Enforcement Division’s investigation, resulting in additional violations of statutes, and CPUC rules and regulations.

The testimony is available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/Aliso.

Since the leak, the CPUC and its state partner, the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, have taken aggressive steps to prevent a similar leak from occurring again, including the Department’s stringent new regulations for all underground natural gas storage reservoirs. Enacted immediately after the leak began and made permanent on October 1, 2018, the regulations ensure that no single point of failure in a well can cause a release of gas into the atmosphere. The regulations have been cited by the federal Pipelines and Hazard Materials Safety Administration as some of the strongest in the nation.

The CPUC also has a proceeding underway to determine the feasibility of minimizing or eliminating the use of Aliso Canyon while still maintaining energy and electric reliability for the Los Angeles region (I.17-02-002). Subscribe to documents related to either proceeding at http://subscribecpuc.cpuc.ca.gov/.

Commissioner Blog: California Public Utilities Commission Takes Actions to Electrify Transportation

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By Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen

Transportation electrification is now the central element in California’s efforts to fight climate change, as the transportation sector represents the largest share (41%) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state. Transportation emissions are also the largest source of diesel and NOx emissions, with the result that portions of California experience some of the unhealthiest air in the United States.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) plays several key roles in promoting the state’s goal of achieving widespread transportation electrification. These include promoting utility investments in charging infrastructure where needed to fill market gaps and priority areas; designing rates so that electricity is a cheaper option than conventional fuels while encouraging smart charging; and managing the grid so that it can handle the additional load from electric vehicles and integrating that load in a way that provides grid benefits. We are carrying out these responsibilities through a variety of decisions and actions. In the past several months we have issued four decisions that address different priority areas: charging in uneconomic locations, electric vehicle rate design, access to electric cars for low income customers, and electrifying medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

ev charge 3In November we approved pilot programs for electric vehicle (EV) charging in parks, beaches and schools for PG&E, SDG&E, SCE and Liberty Utilities. These programs implement two laws passed in 2018 encouraging park, beach and school electrification, locations where it may otherwise be uneconomic to install electric vehicle chargers. Together, the utilities will spend around $50 million to install as many as 800 charging ports. Between 25% and 100% will be located in disadvantaged communities, depending on the program.

We also recently added new rate options for EV customers. One significant barrier to EV adoption for commercial and industrial customers is that they typically pay a demand charge, a monthly charge for their highest demand during the month. This demand charge can be a large portion of a large customers bill. Last year the Legislature directed the CPUC to rethink how demand charges should work for electric vehicle charging. In October, we approved a new set of PG&E electric vehicle rates for commercial and industrial customers, a group that includes transit fleet operators, owners of electric delivery trucks, and providers of public charging stations. The new rate eliminates demand charges and instead implements a model similar to the fees on cell phone bills: subscription charges. Each customer will be able to “buy” a block of capacity that should meet its highest demand and then manage its charging to not surpass it. For example, a bus fleet operator, instead of plugging in all its buses at the same time in the evening, can stagger its charging throughout the night to decrease its maximum demand (and, subsequently, the amount of grid build-out needed to serve that fleet). Due to this decision, large EV customers should pay a much smaller portion of their bill as these fixed charges and hopefully save money compared to gasoline.

Another Commission decision earlier in the fall addressed an important priority area: ensuring that low income residents are not left behind as we transition to electric vehicles. We approved a $4 million PG&E program that invests in charging infrastructure for low to moderate income customers. The decision includes additional incentives for those customers, including a rebate to compensate for the purchase of a home EV charger, as well as for the panel upgrade often necessary to install the charger.

Finally, on August 15 we authorized over $100 million for SDG&E’s medium and heavy-duty program, with 30% of that budget set aside for disadvantaged communities. Although medium and heavy-duty vehicles represent only 10% of all vehicles in the state, they are responsible for 25% of the GHG emissions from the transportation sector. We expect the program to electrify approximately 6,000 vehicles ranging from forklifts to school buses to semi-trucks.

Through these and other actions, the CPUC will continue to tackle the compelling challenge of electrifying California’s transportation sector.

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