PG & E: It is likely that our equipment was the "ignition point" of a deadly campfire.


Home lots destroyed by fire.
Enlarge / Aerial view of homes destroyed by fire at Paradise Camp, California. Three months after the deadly and destructive fire of the camp, the community begins the process of reconstruction.

Photo of Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In a statement released Thursday, Californian utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG & E) announced to their investors that a charge of $ 10.5 billion would be linked to the deadly fire that hit northern Ontario. California last November.

"Although the cause of the camp fire of 2018 is still under investigation, based on information currently known to the company and reported to the California Public Utilities Board (CPUC) and others. agencies, the company thinks it's likely that its equipment will be determined to be a lighting point of the 2018 campfire, "PG & E told investors.

The power company then says that its 115 kilovolt (kV) Caribou-Palermo transmission line was shut down about 15 minutes before a PG & E employee found a fire nearby. 39, a tower on the line. In addition, "a suspension isolator supporting a transposing jumper was separated from an arm" on the tower in question.

Yesterday again, the the Wall Street newspaper reported that PG & E had delayed the modernization of the Caribou-Palermo line by five years. "The company told federal regulators in 2013 that it was considering replacing many of the towers, wires, and pieces of hardware on the line," said the president. WSJ reported. The transmission line traverses a very difficult access territory, passing through inaccessible ridges and winding through the Feather River. Some components of the Caribou-Palermo line are almost 100 years old and date back to the installation of the line in 1921.

The California Department of Forests and Fire Protection is still working on an official determination of camp fire responsibility. It was one of the deadliest forest fires in the state's history, killing 85 people.

The PG & E announcement Thursday also included a $ 1 billion charge related to wildfires caused by its equipment in Northern California in 2017.

Go from the front, look back

The utility company filed for bankruptcy protection in January, asking a judge to allow the company to restructure and renegotiate energy contracts in the face of an imminent debt.

PG & E has also been required to submit a proposal for forest fire mitigation for next summer in California. The company said it would cut energy more vigorously in response to "extreme weather events and drought vegetation." He also promised "significant extensions" in "vegetation management, inspections of distribution and transmission facilities, strengthening of systems, strengthened controls and other programs".

According to WSJ, some of the necessary changes will come in the form of a complete overhaul of PG & E's record keeping system, making it difficult to know where the transmission lines are being modernized and what parts of the huge PG & E system still need to be examined. "Until 2015, the company said in a regulatory document of the state, [PG&E] used "paper wall charts and thumbtacks" in control centers to track the operations of the electricity distribution system. "This is despite the fact that the public service manages an area of ​​70 000 km 2 and supplies electricity to 16 million people.

Between 2014 and 2016, regulators allowed PG & E to spend $ 97 million to modernize its record-keeping system. "At the end of the period", the WSJ "The company in the depots estimated that it had only spent 15% of this amount on the effort due to technological challenges and had used the rest for other projects".

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