In a virtual question-and-answer session on Thursday, officials in Southern California Edison spoke with residents of the Santa Clarita Valley – who have widely criticized the utility company’s blackout program – while utility officials promised improvements were underway.
Dozens of residents of the Santa Clarita Valley have asked for an explanation of how the PSPS areas are selected, why they have occurred often in the past year in the SCV and how communication between utility and customers can be improved.
SoCal Edison officials said during their portion of the presentation that they cut power to 138,000 customers last year to reduce the threat of wildfires, and said the cuts, also known as public safety power cuts (PSPS), are designed to be a last resort. But because California fire seasons continue to worsen over the years, closures and / or other safety measures have had a correlated increase.
To reduce the number of shutdowns implemented each year, Edison said that in 2020 alone, it had installed 960 miles of covered conductor circuits, 6,090 fire-resistant poles, installed 590 weather stations and performed thousands of ‘inspections and installations on other aspects of the electrical network.
SoCal Edison then presented a five-step action plan that they said they would continue to implement in order to improve their service, which includes: accelerating the speed at which they improve the power grid, increasing transparency / PSPS communication, reducing the impact of the PSPS, improving engagement with the community and improving their post-event reporting process.
Edison officials then drew up a map at the community meeting that showed which areas of the Santa Clarita Valley were most affected by PSPS and how SoCal Edison would “harden” the network or reduce the number of PSPS by installing safer and more meteorological PSPS. resilient equipment, such as more isolated cabling, segmentation of the electrical network and new protocols.
“The (normalization process) is targeting the hardest hit communities, but I want to stress that our overall hardening network effort goes well beyond these hardened circuits,” said Terry Ohanian, Director of Accelerated Network Hardening. at Edison. He later added: “Our goal is to reduce the scope or number of affected customers; reductions in the number of PSPS events and reductions in the duration of an event should it occur; and also to complete this work by October 1, which is historically when we see our highest impacts on PSPs.
Areas where the SCV is experiencing accelerated improvements in order to be ready for this year’s fire season are Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country and Sand Canyon. SoCal Edison said other areas near Castaic Lake, northeast of Valencia, around Central Park and off Soledad Canyon Road have been analyzed and that there will be a reduced number of PSPS for these residents.
A third group of sub-communities in Castaic, near Central Park and in northeast Canyon Country have been designated for protocols that would switch these customers to nearby tours that are not impacted.
SoCal Edison officials are hosting a second live online broadcast for the communities of Acton, Agua Dulce, Green Valley and Lake Hughes on March 30 at 6 p.m. ET. For more information on how to join the conversation, visit www.sce.com/wildfire/Community-Safety-Events.