Community Wildfire Safety Program: Electric System Hardening and Vegetation Management
What we are doing
In the last eight years, PG&E’s service area designated as having an elevated wildfire risk by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and CAL FIRE has grown from 15 percent to over 50 percent. As part of PG&E’s investment in your community, we are upgrading and strengthening the electric system to help reduce the threat of wildfire. This work is taking place across 7,100 miles of distribution lines over the next several years in the highest fire-threat areas. Electric system hardening work will:
- Help reduce the risk of wildfire due to environmental factors
- Enhance long-term safety, especially during times of high fire-threat
- Significantly improve reliability during winter weather
Additionally, vegetation will be removed as part of this important safety work. This vegetation work is required to maintain regulated clearances and to safely install new equipment.
This work may include:
- Installing stronger and more resilient poles that will be set deeper in the ground to better withstand high winds.
- Some poles and cross-arms will be made of composite materials due to benefits such as fire resiliency, long-term maintenance and reduction of exposure to issues caused by woodpeckers.
- Installing wider cross-arms to increase the separation of power lines.
- In these cases, the removal of vegetation may be significant but is necessary to meet the required clearances.
- Replacing bare power lines with larger, covered lines to reduce the risk of outages caused by vegetation and animals and to eliminate outages from bare power lines coming into contact with one another.
- Installing more poles, down guys and anchors to support the weight of the covered power lines and to meet new utility standards.
- Eliminating the use of trees to support PG&E infrastructure.
- Targeted undergrounding of select overhead lines.
This work may include:
- Compliance with Public Resource Code (PRC) 4293 and CPUC General Order 95, which requires PG&E to maintain a minimum clearance of 4 feet around power lines in high fire-threat areas, and recommends establishing minimum clearances of 12 feet or more at the time of prune.
- 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 its 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 or dying trees, or trees weakened by decay or disease. Addressing hazardous trees that may appear healthy on the outside, but have structural concerns or a compromised root structure that is not visible.
- Removing all trees and brush located 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 and some outages may last for up to 12 hours. Please note that these are not Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
- Different contractor companies may perform the work depending on the project needs.
- 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.
Our goal is to harden 241 distribution circuit miles in 2020.
As of July 22, 2020, 113 miles have been hardened. Additionally, 46 miles are in progress and 39 miles are ready for construction to begin.