California power company Pacific Gas & Electric, whose equipment has caused several devastating wildfires over the years, said Wednesday it would bury 16,000 kilometers of power lines in high-risk fire areas as a safety measure.
The utility, which called the project a multi-year initiative, said it maintains more than 40,000 kilometers of overhead distribution power lines in areas at highest risk for fire, or more than 30% of its total distribution overhead system.
PG&E’s move comes days after it was involved in the start of recent wildfires in the Sierra Nevada, according to a filing by the utility for regulators published on the Internet by a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle.
The company emerged from bankruptcy last year. It had sought protection from creditors after its equipment caught fire in 2017 and 2018 and put the utility’s potential liabilities in the tens of billions of dollars.
“Following the devastating October 2017 Northern California wildfires and the 2018 Camp Fire, PG&E began evaluating placing underground power lines underground as a wildfire safety measure,” the company said Wednesday.
As part of PG&E’s bankruptcy exit, California officials established a six-step inspection process to hold the utility accountable if it is deemed to be lacking in safeguards.
failure to cut trees
In April, however, officials voted to toughen PG&E’s monitoring, saying the utility had largely failed to carry out necessary tree-trimming work near power lines in areas at highest risk of wildfire. is.
PG&E, which announced new safety initiatives in Butte County, serves more than 16 million people in more than 180,000 square kilometers in northern and central California.
Burying power lines reduces the need for public safety power shutoffs, which are a way to reduce the risk of trees touching live power lines during dry, windy conditions, and to reduce the risk of wildfires. is the last resort.
In 2020, California suffered its most damaging wildfire on record in terms of acreage. As of May, California officials had documented more than 1,000 wildfires across the state this year, compared with last year.
US President Joe Biden said last month that the country was behind in preparing for what could be a record number of wildfires this year due to drought and high temperatures.