Community Wildfire Safety Program: Electric System Hardening and Vegetation Management
To further reduce wildfire risks for our customers and communities, we are strengthening the electric system throughout our service territory with stronger poles, covered power lines and targeted undergrounding. These efforts are known as system hardening. Our focus with our wildfire safety work is not just to build our system for the climate risk that we’re facing now, but the climate risk that we’re going to be facing in the future.
Electric system hardening work will occur over several years across thousands of distribution lines in the highest fire-threat areas, and will:
- Help reduce the risk of wildfires
- Enhance long-term safety, especially during times of high fire-threat
- Significantly improve reliability during winter weather
- In certain cases, reduce Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event impacts where hardening can reduce wildfire risks
Additionally, vegetation will be removed as part of this important safety work. This vegetation work is required to maintain regulated clearances and safely install new equipment. Hardening will also allow us to run fewer wires on our electric infrastructure. In turn, our system will be safer.
Where is this work happening?
This year, our system hardening work will occur across 180 distribution circuit miles in locations facing the highest wildfire risk. To ensure we are addressing the highest wildfire risk areas as conditions continue to change and evolve, we are using a new, state-of-the-art technology and prioritization model to focus our efforts on areas of highest risk of wildfires.
This work may include:
- Installing stronger and more resilient poles
- Installing wider cross-arms to increase the separation of power lines
- In these cases, the removal of vegetation around the upgraded lines may be significantly greater than prior tree trimming but is necessary to meet required clearances
- Replacing bare power lines with larger, covered lines to reduce the risk of outages caused by vegetation and birds or animals and to eliminate the risk of bare power lines coming into contact with one another
- Installing additional poles between existing poles, as well as more down guys and anchors to support the weight of covered power lines and to meet new utility standards
- Targeted undergrounding of select overhead lines in areas with significant density of trees
- Removing power lines connected to trees, also known as Tree Connects, and connecting the power line to stronger, more resilient poles
- Removal of overhead electrical assets in situations where customers can continue to be served through alternate means, such as a Remote Grid
This work may include:
- Maintaining a minimum clearance of 4 feet around power lines in high fire-threat areas and establishing minimum clearances of 12 feet or more at the time of prune in compliance with Public Resource Code (PRC) 4293 and CPUC General Order 95.
- Addressing overhanging branches and limbs 4 feet out from the lines and up to the sky.
- PG&E relies upon General Order 95, Rule 35, PRC 4293, and an evaluation using the Tree Assessment Tool to determine whether it needs to prune or remove hazardous vegetation that may compromise the power lines (i.e., if the tree is tall enough to strike the line), such as dead, diseased, dying or defective trees.
- Addressing hazardous trees that may appear healthy on the outside, but have structural concerns or a compromised root structure.
- In addition, we may need to remove vegetation within 12 feet of either side of the lines to safely construct and install new poles and equipment.
- It may be necessary to shut off power multiple times over the course of the project to safely complete work. Affected customers will receive advance notice. Please note that these are not PSPS events.
- Different contractor companies may perform the work depending on the project needs. All personnel are required to carry identification.
- Customers may experience intermittent road or lane closures, traffic delays and/or construction noise and activity. In addition, cranes and/or helicopters may also be required to complete this project.
In response to the growing risk of wildfire in our state, we are enhancing our vegetation and safety work. Our focus will be on addressing vegetation that poses a higher potential for wildfire risk in high fire-threat areas as designated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Learn about our vegetation safety work in high fire-threat areas.