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CPUC Proposal Would Strengthen Public Notification Requirements Before Electric Utilities De-Energize in Emergencies

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In our ongoing commitment to public safety, we have issued a proposal that, if approved by our Commissioners, would require all investor-owned electric companies to comply with certain rules and customer notification requirements before de-energizing electric facilities in cases of emergencies.  De-energization of an electrical circuit would shut off power to all customers served by that circuit.

Utilities are required to operate their systems in a safe and reliable manner. De-energizing electric facilities during dangerous conditions can save lives and properties, and can prevent wildfires.  The decision by a utility to de-energize facilities for public safety is complex and dependent on many factors including fuel moisture; aerial and ground firefighting capabilities; active fires that indicate dangerous fire conditions; situational awareness provided by fire agencies, the National Weather Service, and the U.S. Forest Service; and local meteorological conditions of humidity and winds.

The proposal issued on May 30, 2018, would provide guidelines that the electric utilities must follow, and strengthens public safety requirements when a utility decides to de-energize its facilities during dangerous conditions. Current regulations regarding de-energization only apply to San Diego Gas & Electric. The proposal extends the existing regulations to all electric investor-owned utilities in California and also strengthens the requirements.

The proposal requires that utilities meet with the local communities that may be impacted by a future de-energization event before putting the practice in effect in a particular area, and requires customer notifications prior to a de-energization event, if feasible. If the proposal is approved, utilities would have 30 days to submit a report to the CPUC outlining their plans regarding public outreach, notification, and mitigation of customer impacts due to de-energization and the resulting power shut offs. Further, within 60 days, utilities would be required to convene De-Energization Informational Workshops with representatives from state agencies, tribal governments, local agencies, and representatives from the local communities that may be affected by a de-energization event. The purpose of these workshops is to explain, and receive feedback on, the utilities' de-energization policies and procedures.

A utility would be required to notify the CPUC as soon as practicable after it decides to de-energize facilities, and to notify the CPUC within 30 minutes after all electric service is restored.  After a de- energization event, a utility also would be required to submit a report to the CPUC explaining the decision to shut off power, its impacts on customers, and other relevant matters. The decision to shut off power may be reviewed by the CPUC as part of its broad jurisdiction over public safety and utility operations.

The first opportunity that the CPUC's Commissioners have to vote on the proposal is July 12, 2018.

The proposal issued for comment on May 30, 2018, is available at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M215/K379/215379996.PDF.

Comment on the proposal can be submitted to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov referencing proceeding Res ESRB-8.

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