Climate Crisis Catches Energy Companies Unprepared


In California, Pacific Gas & Electric is upgrading its transmission network to prevent a repeat of 2018 when the power line breaks. ignited the campfireKilled 85 people and forced the company into bankruptcy. However, PG&E warned that it could take ten years to complete the work. In July, the utility told regulators that its equipment Might have ignited the Dixie Firewhich has burned 200,000 acres north of Sacramento.

And adaptation will not come cheap. A Latest report from ICF International, a consulting firm estimates that utilities face a $500 billion deficit in retrofitting their systems against known climate risks.

Pacific Gas & Electric has asked California regulators to approve a deal to pay its wildfire protection fee. $5.5 billion rate increase for customers From 2023 to 2026, this could increase the average housing bill by about $430 per year. PG&E takes into account Burying 10,000 miles of power lines underground could cost $30 billion.

Meanwhile, many residents are finding ways to keep the lights on when electricity cannot be serviced.

Maureen Kennedy has spent this spring researching solar and battery power for her home in Inverness, northwest of San Francisco, amid growing concern over PG&E’s power outages.

“Your facility is so unreliable that you have to consider spending $18,000 on solar and battery backup,” said Ms. Kennedy, a retired real estate broker.

A PG&E spokesperson declined requests to meet with public service executives.

Caroline Winn is the general manager of San Diego Gas & Electric, which pioneered many of the techniques other utilities have adopted for wildfires. His company began receiving calls and visits from public service workers seeking guidance on fire prevention from Oregon and as far afield as Australia.

But now Ms. Winn worries about another threat from climate change: sea level rise that could flood four of the utility’s onshore substations in the next few decades. “The climate doesn’t stay the same,” said Ms. Winn. “It’s getting worse. It’s not just a California problem. It’s a world problem.”


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