PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

Northern California Wildfires

Electric Operations

Electricity powers modern life for our customers across Northern and Central California—from those who live and work in cities such as San Jose and Fresno to those who call places like Acampo, Hyampom and Mendota home. For PG&E, keeping the lights on for all of our customers is core to our mission of providing safe and reliable energy and is the reason we continue to enhance and strengthen our infrastructure, including making substantial investments to modernize the energy grid and improve our operations.

Our Approach

At PG&E, we recognize that the energy grid must adapt to meet the changing demands of our customers—with more customers adding private solar installations and choosing to adopt electric vehicles, as well as the emergence of battery storage systems. PG&E is continuing its work to develop and build an automated “plug-and-play” platform that allows energy technologies to be interconnected with each other and integrated into the larger grid.

A smarter grid—or integrated grid platform—is designed to incorporate new energy technologies as they are introduced, to give our customers maximum flexibility, choice and value. This grid also gives PG&E greater visibility into our operations to improve reliability, which enables faster and often automated restoration of outages, and effectively integrates renewable energy with conventional sources.

Modernizing the grid is part of our multiyear strategic plan. It adopts best practices, builds on the progress we’ve made and identifies ways to improve in key areas, including public, customer and contractor safety, as well as compliance, emergency preparedness, reliability, customer satisfaction and efficiency.

As part of our regular operations, we maintain and replace older equipment, upgrading as needed and incorporating new technologies that improve our ability to monitor the electric system and restore power.

We also work with local and state agencies to help reduce the risk of wildfires. We’ve invested heavily in new technologies and increased inspections to mitigate the risk of downed electric wires, we’ve stepped up planning and training efforts, we have donated millions of dollars to combat wildfire risk, and we’ve participated in dozens of projects to teach wildfire prevention in local communities. We also work with first responders to help make sure they can safely react to gas and electric incidents.

2017 Milestones

Every year, PG&E aims to improve reliability and our ability to more quickly restore power after outages by upgrading infrastructure and installing a wide range of advanced communications and control technologies throughout the energy grid. Highlights from 2017 included:

  • Invested in our system. In the last five years, PG&E has invested $14.3 billion to enhance and harden its electric transmission and distribution system assets. In 2017, this included major projects as well as smaller local ones—ranging from relocating electric facilities to support Caltrain electrification in San Francisco and the Peninsula, to installing new equipment such as transformers and switches in downtown Chico. PG&E also replaced 53 miles of older overhead wire with new, stronger wires in 2017, bringing the total number of miles upgraded since 2012 to 341.
  • Completed a full year of Distribution Control Center operations. Since 2014, PG&E has opened three state-of-the-art electric distribution control centers—in Fresno, Concord and Rocklin—that manage more than 107,000 miles of electric distribution power lines. In 2017, PG&E marked the first year of full operations for all three facilities, which are the nerve centers of the grid that deliver energy to the homes and businesses of more than 16 million Californians. The centers have enhanced electric reliability for PG&E customers while helping to incorporate clean, renewable energy into the grid.
  • Conducted demonstration projects through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. These included a Distributed Energy Resource Management System project, a smart inverter project and a behind-the-meter storage project. In collaboration with Tesla, Green Charge Networks and GE Grid Solutions, PG&E is demonstrating how these technologies can enhance the stability and power quality of the grid and optimize power-flow management, especially as more customers adopt solar and storage.
  • Installed advanced circuit automation technology. This advanced technology, installed on electric distribution circuits, can restore power to the majority of customers within minutes after an outage by rerouting the flow of electricity around a damaged power line, automatically “self-healing” the grid. Since the program began in 2012, these systems have been installed on more than 27 percent of PG&E’s electrical distribution circuits and have helped avoid more than 271 million customer outage minutes and prevented more than 2.7 million customers from experiencing a sustained outage.
  • Continued to leverage SmartMeter™ technology. More than 10 million electric and gas SmartMeter™ devices are creating a smarter, more reliable energy grid. The electric meters provide near real-time energy usage data to both PG&E and our customers through digital communications. They also enable us to better detect areas affected by outages, which means we can restore power faster.

Measuring Progress

The average time a PG&E customer was without power (SAIDI) was 113.4 minutes, which represents a 37 percent improvement from 10 years ago. The average number of power interruptions per customer (SAIFI) was 0.958, or fewer than one per customer, the second-best year for this category in PG&E history.

Our 10-year electric reliability progress since 2008 is detailed in the table below.

Electric Reliability Progress
2008 2017
Average duration of outages per customer in minutes (SAIDI) 181.5 113.4
Average number of outages per customer (SAIFI) 1.299 0.958

PG&E also tracks the number of customers who experience five or more sustained outages (CEMI-5), measured as a percentage of the total customers served, as well as the percentage of time that PG&E personnel are on site within 60 minutes after receiving a 911 call of a potential PG&E electric hazard.

Electric System Progress
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Customers experiencing five or more sustained outages (CEMI-5) 1.87% 1.71% 1.35% 2.10% 1.81%
Electric Emergency Response (percentage within 60 minutes) 92.2% 94.1% 97.1% 98.3% 96.6%

Looking Ahead

Our overarching focus continues to be the safety of our communities, customers and employees; optimizing technology to achieve greater reliability and resilience; working to ensure that our electric service remains affordable; and supporting a flexible resource portfolio to deliver even more clean energy.

In 2018, we plan to:

  • Implement the Community Wildfire Safety Program, which includes a number of subsequent and remedial measures to further reduce risk following last year’s devastating wildfires, including opening a new 24/7 Wildfire Safety Operations Center to monitor potential fire threats in real time, enhancing our vegetation management program, and installing an expanded network of weather stations across our system.
  • Continue energy grid reliability and resilience projects, replace a certain number of miles of overhead power lines and perform infrared inspections on 13,000 circuit miles of power lines,
  • Launch a new portfolio of demonstration projects that will further sustainable practices through clean energy integration, enhanced resilience and grid modernization, customer enablement and other innovative technology areas under the third cycle of our EPIC program, upon CPUC approval,
  • Enhance our corporate emergency response plan and longer-term operations and planning through the prism of resilience and the impacts of climate change,
  • Implement automated crew logistics to provide frontline managers with readily accessible operational information to effectively and efficiently manage outages,
  • Improve our asset replacement strategy and planning using sophisticated analytical models to reduce risk of asset failure,
  • Improve our service planning process to meet customer commitments,
  • Make continued investments into battery storage, including PG&E’s first lithium-ion battery project, installed at a substation to reduce peak demand during hot summer days and
  • Execute our Electric Tower Maintenance Program, one part of PG&E’s effort to create safer and more environmentally responsible infrastructure.