Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) / De-Energization

 



In the wake of one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in California’s history and in response to Senate Bill (SB) 901, the Commission instituted Rulemaking 18-12-005 to build on earlier rules on the de-energization of powerlines. California Public Utilities Code Sections (Pub. Util. Code §§) 451 and 399.2(a) give electric utility companies authority to de-energize power lines in order to protect public safety. However, de-energization can leave communities and essential facilities without power, which brings its own risks and hardships, particularly for vulnerable communities and individuals.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) first provided PSPS guidance to the utilities in 2012 in response to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)’s request for CPUC authority to shut off power during Santa Ana winds. Since that time, the CPUC has adopted guidelines for the utilities to follow before, during and after a PSPS. The CPUC adopted the most current set of guidelines on June 5, 2020.

California law, specifically California Public Utilities Code (PU Code) Sections 451 and 399.2(a), has allowed these companies to de-energize their distribution and transmission lines since 2007. See “Evolution of Public Safety Power Shutoffs in California” section below for the procedural history of PSPS in California.

This year, the companies’ PSPS plans include provisions for COVID-19 measures. Click here for the utilities’ 2020 Planning for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).

Access to information about consumer disaster relief protections for customers of affected areas during any declared state of emergency, including wildfires, is available on this CPUC blog.

 

Upcoming Events

The CPUC will hold remote public briefings with the state’s three large electric utilities about their readiness for PSPS events in 2020. PSPS events are a tool of last resort for utilities to use to mitigate the risk of wildfire, and electric utilities must execute PSPS events safely. See the media advisory here.

The Commissioners will be joined on the virtual dais by leaders from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection (CAL FIRE). The public briefings are set for:

Staff Questions for Electric IOU PSPS Public Briefings

You may view the meeting at: www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc.

To listen by phone, dial (800) 857-1917 and enter passcode: 9899501. Additional information will be posted when available.


Evolution of Public Safety Power Shutoffs in California

On June 5, 2020 the Commission adopted updated and additional PSPS guidelines to mitigate wildfire risk and the impact on customers when a utility considers implementing a PSPS. These guidelines were approved in Decision 20-05-051, which contains Appendix A, which is Phase 2 of Rulemaking 18-12-005. The CPUC opened this rulemaking to examine de-energization of power lines (PSPS).

These Phase 2 guidelines are the most recent CPUC action directing the electric companies before, during and after a PSPS event. These current guidelines ensure the IOUs enhance consistent, customer-friendly communications before and during PSPS events, minimize the impact on customers when energy utility companies implement PSPS events, and increase accountability with impacted regional Working Groups and reports.

The current Phase 2 guidelines are preceded by and build upon past CPUC actions, described below.

  • Phase 1 guidelines were approved on May 30, 2019, in a decision in the R.18-12-005 proceeding, to prepare for the 2019 fire season.
  • The CPUC opened a new Rulemaking (R.18-12-005) on December 13, 2018 to examine the utilities' PSPS processes and practices in response to  Senate Bill 901.
  • Resolution ESRB-8 was adopted on July 12, 2018 to strengthen customer notification requirements before de-energization events and required utilities to submit a report within 10 days after each de-energization event.
  • On April 19, 2012, the CPUC provided its first PSPS guidance to utilities in Decision 12-04-024, in response to SDG&E’s Application 08-12-021 requesting specific authority to shut off power as a fire-prevention measure against severe Santa Ana winds and a review of SDG&E's proactive de-energization measures.

Send your comments on the proceeding to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov and refer to proceeding number R.18-12-005.

 

Current and Past CPUC Actions and Events

The CPUC is working with the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (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.

On Oct. 18, 2019, the CPUC held an Emergency Meeting to hear from top Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) executives to publicly address the mistakes and operational gaps identified in the utility’s October 2019 PSPS events and to provide lessons learned to ensure they are not repeated. More information about the meeting is available on the "October 2019 PSPS Events" webpage.

On Oct. 28, 2019, the CPUC announced Additional Decisive Actions to Hold Utilities Accountable and Increase Public Safety.

On Nov. 13, 2019, the CPUC opened an investigation (I.19-11-013) to examine recent utility PSPS events and consider enforcement actions.

On Nov. 13, 2019, the CPUC announced Actions to Hold Communications Companies Accountable and Increase Public Safety.

On Jan. 30, 2020, the CPUC Proposes Additional PSPS Guidelines for Utilities and Orders PG&E to Resume and Augment Corrective Action Reports.

On Apr. 29, 2020, the CPUC Issued a Proposal for the Deployment of Microgrids and Resiliency Strategies to Support Communities and Infrastructure Threatened by Power Outages.

May 28, 2020: CPUC Enhances Community Engagement and Collaboration for Utility Public Safety Power Shut-Off Events

Jun. 8, 2020: SED served a copy of its Public Report on the Late 2019 PSPS Events to the service list of I.19-11-013

 

Schedule

The Phase 2 Track 1 schedule for R.18-12-005 is shown below.

  • Jan. 30, 2020: Proposed new and updated guidelines served
  • Feb. 19, 2020: Phase 2 Track 1 comments on the proposed additional and modified de-energization guidelines
  • Feb. 26, 2020: Phase 2 Track 1 reply comments due
  • Apr. 27, 2020: Proposed Decision
  • May 14, 2020: Proposed Decision comments due
  • May 21, 2020: Reply comments due
  • May 28, 2020: Commission Decision

 Phase I schedule

 Order to Show Cause (OSC) phase schedule of the proceeding:

  • Feb. 5, 2020: PG&E serves testimony in response to the OSC
  • Feb. 28, 2020: Other parties serve testimony in response to PG&E's testimony
  • Mar. 16, 2020: Concurrent rebuttal testimony served
  • Mar. 26, 2020: Cross-examination estimates
  • Apr. 1-3, 2020: Hearings (if necessary)
  • To be discussed at hearings: Opening Briefs
  • To be discussed at hearings: Reply Briefs/Case Submitted

 Order Instituting Investigation (OII) for I.19-11-013 schedule:

  • Dec. 13, 2019: Respondents to file and serve a response to the OII
  • Jan. 10, 2020: Other responses to the OII filed and served
  • TBD: Prehearing Conference
 

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 Post Event Reports 

The reports in this section, called “Pro-Active De-Energization Post Event Reports” are reports submitted by the utilities in accordance with Resolution ESRB-8 and Ordering Paragraph 1 of California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Decision (D.) 19-05-042. See above for more information about these reports.

Reports are listed by the date of the de-energization event or anticipated event, not the date the report was submitted.

2020
 
SCE
 
2019 
 
PG&E

SCE

SDG&E

2018
 
 
SDG&E  

CPUC De-Energization Reports

 

Utility PSPS Progress 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

  •  Application 08-12-021filed by SDG&E on December 22, 2008, requested specific authority to shut off power as a fire-prevention measure against severe Santa Ana winds and a review of SDG&E's proactive de-energization measures. Decision 12-04-024 issued on April 19, 2012, provided CPUC guidance on SDG&E's authority to shut off power under the PU Code and also established factors the CPUC may consider in determining whether or not a decision by SDG&E to shut off power was reasonable.

 

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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