De-Energization (PSPS)





Wildfires are more destructive and deadlier than in the past, and the threat of wildfires is more prevalent throughout the state and calendar year. The overall pattern shows the emerging effects of climate change in our daily lives.

Throughout the year, the CPUC works with CalFire and the Office of Emergency Services to reduce the risk of utility infrastructure starting wildfires, to strengthen utility preparedness for emergencies, and to improve utility services during and after emergencies. Interagency coordination, and cooperation from the utilities is essential when the threat of wildfires is high.

The State's investor-owned electric utilities, notably Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), may shut off electric power, referred to as "de-energization" or Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS), to protect public safety under California law, specifically California Public Utilities Code (PU Code) Sections 451 and 399.2(a).

CPUC Actions

 On July 12, 2018, the CPUC adopted Resolution ESRB-8 to strengthen customer notification requirements before de-energization events and ordered utilities to engage local communities in developing de-energization programs. Utilities must submit a report within 10 days after each de-energization event, and after high-fire-threat events where the utility provided notifications to local government, agencies, and customers of possible de-energization though no de-energization occurred. These reports are accessible below.

On December 13, 2018, the CPUC opened a new Rulemaking (R.18-12-005) to examine utilities' de-energization processes and practices, the impacts on communities and vulnerable populations, efforts to reduce the need for de-energization, and mitigate measures to reduce the impacts when implemented. The rulemaking will also review and improve existing reporting requirements. Read the comments from parties to the proceeding on the Docket Card

The CPUC is working with the Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), CAL FIRE, and first-responders to address potential impacts of utility de-energization practices on emergency response activities, including evacuations. The CPUC is also monitoring the development and will continuously assess implementation of de-energization programs by utilities, including performing a thorough review of de-energization events as they occur.

Schedule

  • February 19, 2019: Pre-hearing conference. 1:00 p.m. at the California State Personnel Board, Hearing Room E, 801 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, California 95814. Call-in number: 877-715-0719, passcode: 721383. 
  • February 8, 2019: Responses to Rulemaking Due
  • January 9, 2019: Workshop on Impacts from De-Energization: Focus on First Responders and Local Government. Calabasas Founders Hall, 200 Civic Center Way, Calabasas, CA 91302. Agenda; CPUC Presentation; SCE Presentation.
  • December 14, 2018: Workshop on Impacts from De-Energization: Focus on Vulnerable Populations. Santa Rosa Veteran's Memorial Building, Auditorium, 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95404. AgendaCPUC PresentationPG&E Presentation.

 

Utility Public Safety Power Shutoff Programs

As a result of Resolution ESRB-8, the electric utilities developed de-energization programs, referred to as "Public Safety Power Shutoff" as a preventative measure of last resort if the utility reasonably believes that there is an imminent and significant risk that strong winds may topple power lines or cause major vegetation-related issues leading to increased risk of fire. The programs outline criteria the utility analyzes when considering shutting off power to one of more electric distribution or transmission lines, and protocols for when and how customers are notified. Information about the utilities Public Safety Power Shutoff program can be found below.

Resources

 

Utility De-Energization Reports 

 

CPUC De-Energization Reports

 

Consumer Protections

The utilities must ensure that their de-energization policies and procedures are well-communicated and made publicly available before de-energizing.  The utilities must:

  • Convene de-energization informational workshops in areas where a de-energization might occur to explain and receive feedback on their de-energization policies and procedures.  Utilities must invite a wide range of potentially affected customers, including representatives of customers who are low income, have limited English, have disabilities, and are elderly.
  • Meet with representatives of local communities in such areas, and must discuss potential mitigation measures, including any assistance that the utility may be able to provide.
  • Meet, upon request, with groups that may have notification needs different than those of the general public.
  • Notify customers, as feasible and appropriate, of the potential need to de-energize during specific high hazard conditions, at least 2 hours, if possible, before shutting off the power on a line. The utilities must also notify, as feasible, fire departments, first responders, critical facilities, other potentially affected entities, and the CPUC before de-energizing.

Further, the CPUC has directed the utilities to contact people with medical conditions when there are outages, regardless of cause. Therefore, it is vital that people with medical conditions alert the utility to their condition and make use of the medical baseline program, as appropriate. The programs may be found at:

 

Potential Impacts on Telephone Service during De-energization

End users of communication services will receive differing levels of service when their provider loses power. Communications service providers are required under Decision 10-01-026 to implement programs to educate their customers on the different types of back up power supplies and how to obtain them.

Will my telephone work in a de-energization event? It depends.

  • Wireline customers who subscribe to POTS (plain old telephone service) voice service using copper lines generally have service during a power outage. This is because the central office that serves the residence as backup power, which provides the electricity necessary to operate a wired telephone during a power outage.
    • The CPUC does not have rules mandating backup power for this service, however most central offices do have and maintain backup power.
    • Cordless phones require the end user to maintain the batteries in those devices, so that the home portion of the telephone service can operate in a power outage.
     
  • For VoIP customers, service during a power outage depends on the underlying facility used by the provider. Some VoIP providers will maintain line power (some variants of DSL) during an outage, and others rely on network power which may or may not be present.
  • Cable subscribers with voice service may or may not have service in a power outage.
    • The CPUC does not have rules mandating backup power for this type of service.
     
  • Wireless (cellular) customers may or may not have voice service in a power outage, depending on the backup power installed at cell sites.
    • The CPUC does not have rules mandating backup power for this type of service.
     
  • It is the responsibility of the customer to obtain the required backup power in the residence to have working telephone service during an outage event. This might include batteries for cordless phones, routers, WIFI, fiber termination devices, and other customer premises equipment.

Does a communication provider have to provide service? Some do.

  • A service provider that is designed a Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) must offer basic service to all residential customers in its territory under Decision 12-12-038. This includes AT&T, Consolidated, Frontier, and 13 small rural carriers. View a list of all the COLRs and a map of their service territories.
    • One required element of basic service is for COLRs to provide free access to 9-1-1.
    • The CPUC does not have rules for service providers to keep telephone service operational during a planned power outage.
     
  • If you have a complaint about your telephone service, first call your service provider. If they don't fix it, then please call the CPUC's Consumer Affairs Branch at (800) 649-7570 to submit an informal complaint.

The CPUC's General Order 168 Rule 3 requires communication providers who offer end-user access to the public switched telephone network to provide access to 9-1-1 emergency services to all residential customers and wireless devices. Rule 3 does not require carriers to provide access to 9-1-1 during a power outage or de-energization event.

CPUC Resolution ESRB-8 requires electric utilities to make all practical attempts to notify and coordinate with all potentially affected communications service providers before and after a de-energization event.

 

More Information

 

 

Contact

Contact the CPUC's Public Advisor's Office at public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov or U.S. mail at CPUC, Public Advisor's Office, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102 if you have questions or would like to comment.


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