He recounts of an issue with a customer complaining about low Internet speeds, despite being located close to the distribution building for the whole area. Seemingly, everything should've been fine. A cable leaves the distribution building, goes into the ground, and reappears a short distance later near the customer's house. Upon close inspection it was discovered that the cable did not take a straight route underground - instead of cutting the cable to necessary length, someone just buried the entire spool, and the total cable length was close to a kilometer or so. The signal, unboosted, barely got through to the other end.
So sounds like a movie plot
Just lends itself to the story possibly being an urban legend.
His guess was that (a) nobody bothered looking in the box and (b) they were just testing voice quality, which was fine, but the actual DSL signal was showing lots of dropouts.
When powerlines come into contact with the ground or a tree, arcing can occur. If the line remains live and continues arcing, the risk of fire is quite high.
REFCL tech works by detecting the phase-to-earth faults that occur when a one of the three-phase powerlines breaks and falls to the ground. REFL instantly reduces the voltage on the fallen line, and boosts the voltage on the other two phases. REFCL will then test the faulted line after a few seconds, and if the fault was intermittent full service is restored. If not, the whole line is removed from service to prevent fires and make the line safe to work on.
On Total Fire Ban days (very high risk of fire due to weather conditions), the REFCL settings operate at increased sensitivity.
There's a requirement in Victoria that by 2023 all high risk zone substations have to install REFCL technology, and all HV customers connected to those zone subs have to be REFCL compliant (their equipment must be able to handle the over-voltages that occur during REFCL operation).
I didn't get how that would work, so I did a bit of research. REFCL effectively grounds the affected phase so that it is 0V with respect to ground. But the other 2 phases retain the same voltage relative to the affected phase, so they have increased voltage relative to ground.
You do seem to be able to buy 33kV ABC from China but not sure if it would meet Australian Standards.
Looking at Wikipedia's page on ABC though, it says that even older 11/22kV ABC is being replaced to underground in Australia because the insulation can degrade and it can cause fires too.
So then to follow up: what is the point? To deflect blame from PGE? And who pays for it?
It probably won't solve wildfires - there's still plenty of fuel, and hotter climates, and strong winds - but it can buy some breathing room. I suspect a bigger reason is to maintain the integrity of the grid. Buried power lines don't start fires, but they also don't get taken down when there is a fire, and they won't have a judge order them shut-off when there's a risk of high fire danger. Being perceived as an unreliable source of electricity is a far bigger threat to a utility than burning down a few towns - I know that was the primary reason I went solar, and a lot of my peers are also thinking of disconnecting from the grid because the grid isn't there when you need it.
One is the fire intensity for people who enjoy the outdoors and using them. High intensity fires destroy the natural resource and some will take a century to grow back. This is especially worry some because we are essentially locked into all of our forests burning down at this point.
Impact on people and homes is an entirely different one that I honestly care less about, because it affects me less.
Generally controlled burns are scheduled during wetter seasons for this reason. But the difficulty of getting the general public to understand this and go along with it is probably hard to understate.
With very high fuel loads, the consequences get worse as time progresses, and the odds of it happening get higher - at least without tons of manual shredding and other fuel work first, which is expensive, and what a prescribed fire should alleviate the need for.
In the modern legal/liability environment, it’s tough to do - if you do the inexpensive thing (still expensive) like prescribed fires to reduce the catastrophic risk, you get sued.
If you do the safer option (mastication, lop and scatter, etc) you can only touch tiny areas at a time - and the catastrophic risk rises.
Logging can help, but it also requires management and care to not make the problem worse long term, and in many of these areas it’s a non-starter due to environmentalist pushback. Even if we ignore the cost in money, it delays things for decades sometimes - and by then it’s probably burned down.
> What service do you have where your grid connection is that unreliable?
I am in Ercot, right next to where the natural gas pipelines begin and where regulation ends, and I also struggle to keep the time on all of my appliances week-to-week. I don't know how the EI grid is doing, but feels like reliability has been dropping like a rock west of the Mississippi since ~2014 or so.
I used to have a computer plugged directly into the ATX power grid that had ~3 years of uptime. What a fantastical time that was.
Now, I am currently having a 50kW standby generator installed (oversized for multi-day operation). I am also investigating multiple fuel sources and smaller auxiliary units. Have to think in 2nd order terms these days. Everyone else is getting a generator installed too.
They immediately had a propane backup tank installed that could run things for 2 weeks.
See NERC's reliability report for 2020 - even accounting for fires, the average transmission capacity loss for the entire USA and Canada was mostly under 0.5%. (Page 65)
Solar and batteries aren't a substitute for grid transmission infrastructure and cannot match the amounts of energy a good transmission grid can deliver. The best part of the grid - you don't have to worry about balancing or when you need energy. You just flip a switch.
Yes, PG&E could have done more and their investment choices led to lots of damage and loss but let's not jump the gun and term their grid unreliable. They are held to NERC's standards which are among the best in the world.
If some outlying customers switch to partial or full self sufficiency, then a utility "death spiral" can occur as they increase prices on the remaining customers in the area.
Two responses to this are:
Legally force people to stay connected and pay for the grid
Start building microgrids using distributed solar and batteries, which is apparently being done in remote Australia.
Either can be a good thing if well managed, or an inefficient boondoggle if not.
Outlying customers are difficult to service in regular times because there are many failure points and few redundancies. The solution to this is not for every farm to install solar PV as a substitute to the grid but to shore up transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Anyone who's lived in the high arctic will tell you that the #1 reason they are clamouring for connections to the continental grid is reliability. Solar, wind and even diesel generation are just not as reliable or sustainable.
Solar has the further advantage that it doesn't require ongoing fuel, so you're not dependent on that infrastructure either. Sizing a battery system to accommodate your usual lifestyle while it's dark is a bit silly, but a modest amount of storage that can supply say an average of 200W will get you quite far (fridge, sump pump, lighting, internet uplink, laptop).
Solar installs on e.g. remote mining sites are already starting to conplement and then edge out diesel generators so there are off grid use cases but if you have a grid then the most efficient thing is to use it in most cases.
But outlying customers in sunny areas are almost certainly going to benefit financially and in terms of reliability if the grid encourages them to install PV and batteries that talk to and work with the grid. Whether a grid owner will actually be incented to do so is a different question.
This is making the error of substituting average performance for the actual performance of a particular grid. The PG&E grid shuts down large amounts of transmission during high wind events:
> Solar and batteries aren't a substitute for grid transmission infrastructure
This is proving to be very wrong. Transmission is extremely expensive, it can be one of the most expensive parts of the grid, and, both batteries and distributed solar are being used as a substitute for transmission.
The term in the industry is "non-wires alternatives," and it was a way for early lithium ion batteries to be used profitably on the grid, even before their recent price drops. (That and frequency regulation in the PJM market).
My only gripe here is that this by itself, does not quality PG&E's grid as "unreliable".
As for non-wires alternatives, I can point to several reports, some from NERC, some NREL and others private companies that have found - over and over again - that the path towards more grid reliability involves better transmission and stronger distribution. Batteries and solar can delay the investment needed, not substitute them altogether.
(That is, the policy is expensive, and there are numerous other hard-to-monitor causes of fires.)
You might send a manhole cover into near earth orbit now and then when an underground transformer explodes. As the famous saying most definitely does not go: One small leap for manhole cover, one giant leap for not celebrating your fifth anniversary of burning down ratepayer homes and national parks.
(As you might suspect, they’ve been making tidy profits every year for decades while choosing not to invest in burying power lines. The only reason there’s been such rapid change and a proper incident reaction in IT terms for an actual megacorp, is that they’re in bankruptcy court and the judge can compel them to act competently and rapidly, and shame them and penalize them for failing for the fourth year in a row to do so. Non-US folks, our power utilities are a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit, and ethical behavior that costs money is less common in for-profit ones. Co-ops are usually a good idea, but megacorps not so much.)
Or in the case of the Camp Fire, we're talking about a transmission line constructed in the 1920's to carry hydroelectric power from the Sierra Nevada to other areas-- primarily Contra Costa County.
Also, running a mile of power line in a California city is orders of magnitude more expensive than running a mile of power line in rural areas outside of California. To the extent that PG&E follows the law (sometimes they just steal the money, and blow up towns years later when the system decays), I doubt they make much profit in the city.
At any rate, PG&E prices are completely out of control in rural areas. All in, I paid ~$10K for a 5 foot run from an existing transformer. All they did was run three wires five feet, and re-energize their own transformer.
It took them three years.
In the meantime, we built a house with a gas generator and Lithium ion batteries.
I’m not including that expense in the $10K, nor am I including delay of construction or wiring on our side of the PG&E box.
I am including the second pole and power backing board they had us build because the first one (built to their specifications) was unacceptable.
Edit: Also, they made us bury our lines, but refused to bury theirs in a reasonable timeframe. Hopefully we’ll get buried service lines out of this.
Edit 2: I forgot. They refused to give us permission to move our box to eliminate their unburied lines. So, it wasn’t that we wanted them to pay to bury the lines. We wanted their engineers to sign off on moving a transformer, and then decommissioning their lines.
Since then, they’ve had people on our property multiple times to deal with trees that interfere with the line they wouldn’t let us pay to eliminate.
They definitely make all their money in cities, most utilities do. The monopoly license to operate in a city makes servicing rural areas tolerable, but everyone would avoid servicing them at the same rates if they didn’t have to.
Profitability and bankruptcy sit in a mild opposition to each other.
Unprofitable for the shareholders, maybe.
The CEO still gets to take home $6M+  which sounds plenty profitable to me.
I believe that many US companies have made distinct fortunes based just on capital asset valuations, along with some strategic sales and trades here and there. PG&E is in the center of that, being a massive landowner for its infrastructure. Second fun-fact, when California State regulators requested inventory details for things like transmission facilities, the response was "trade secret" or "homeland security" or "you will sell this info" .. basically deny, delay and deprive. So even the agencies tasked to regulate PG&E did not have complete asset inventories to refer to..
If anyone has info on the current court-ordered restructuring since the criminal negligence conviction, don't be shy !
They might have made a mistake about how much they accrued in the past, but going forward they wouldn't be able to call the decision profitable. It clearly wasn't.
If a business goes bankrupt, at least one of its past decisions was an unprofitable one. That is a difficult fact to escape from.
Not so fast ! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal-seam_fire
Presumably the point is to bring affected parts of California back to the first world by not having to shut off their power whenever there's heavy winds expected.
It’s not going to stop everything, nor all human-caused fires (e.g., the “gender reveal” one last year), but I believe it shifts the likelihood more than you expect.
But if CA wants to reduce these fires, they desperately need to catch back up on their controlled burns. A combination of low brush fire for decades (not forest fire!) and changing environment has built up an extremely dangerous backlog of fuel that makes CA specifically and the PNW in general a massive fire risk. Short of fixing global warming and moving everyone away from the interface between nature and city, the only solution is to burn up all that fuel in a controlled way.
The vegetation there has been on natural cycles for years of burning hot every few years. Sure power lines start the file, but they will start anyway: large hot fires have always been part of the life cycle of that area. This is very different from the low brush fires that are a natural part of most other forests.
To be fair, climate change and changing habitation patterns are also making this much worse.
Historically, most California forests had low intensity burns every few years. Now, these same forests haven't had a fire in 100+ years, resulting in extremely intense fires that leave behind ashen moonscapes. This is not the historic normal fire cycle in CA.
Let's be absolutely clear that this is only true for a limited number of forests. The evidence for this is the existence of very old trees.
Unfortunately many forests will become increasingly susceptible to fire as dry seasons are extending in many areas due to climate change.
Lots of tree species are able to survive a forest fire once they reach a certain size. There absolutely are very old trees in areas that burn frequently.
There also always is plenty of oxygen. In dry summers, there’s also plenty of fuel. What’s lacking is sufficient heat. The ignition temperature of wood is difficult to assess, but wood can start burning at 125°C ≈ 256°F (https://www.warrenforensics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/P...)
It doesn’t get that hot without help, e.g. from a campfire, a magnifying glass, or sparks from electricity.
I also wonder if the unions representing linemen have a strong influence on "bury" vs "overhead" since most of lineman's job involves work up a pole rather than a tunnel.
Lastly - burying anything in the ground in areas where the ground has been known to move (California is the "Earthquake" entry in the Bingo game of "choose which natural disaster" that is the continental USA) is liable to be a non-trivial endeavour, one which will require ongoing inspections and the like.
A point to keep in mind here, PGE is a company. Their primary goal is to not be the cause of the wildfire and pay damages.
If it also reduces the frequency of wildfires, great.
The article here refers to PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, an investor-owned private utility serving California.
The primary problem remains fire suppression practices, forest management, and changing climate. This seems like a very expensive way to eliminate a quarter of our wildfires.
Maybe its just “the solution”.
But doesn't help the fire. As long the dry woods are piling up, which it eventually will, something else will trigger the fire. And amount of fire won't be even reduce by 25%.
But the court won't be able to blame PGE then, that's the whole point.
This is much, much cheaper than burying them, and they hire students going into forest, and related fields to assist with the work (heavily supervised).
It is not even remotely hard to believe that Quebec has far, far more rural power lines than California.
What's the difference? State run organizations like Hydro Quebec, are IMO not apt to create short term profits, by sacrificing long term cost saving measures. There is no CEO of Hydro Quebec getting a massive boost to income via stock profits, or awards due to profit targets met.
The goal is instead, make delivery the safest and most cost effective over the long term.
By burying wires, I suspect it achieves two things. Ensuring a CEO, or department head won't cost save for a bonus, and not trim wires, and to maybe do a one time write down.
To highlight this?
I accidentally had a tree fall the wrong way (I has ropes too, one slipped) during a cut. Hydro Quebec came and cut the tree from the wires, restored power, for free.
In Ontario, where power is private now? I would have paid thousands.
Why the difference? The loss of life, because someone tries to save money and deal with it themselves, isn't worth it. Especially when state paid health care, and disability exists.
I'm 100% a capitalist. Yet some things make sense, run as a non profit, where costs are counter to societal safety and goals.
Not really. While it's true that a state run organizations might not cut costs to meet profits, that's just replaced with cutting to meet budget requirements. eg. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/nyregion/new-york-subway-...
It is established with a specific mandate by a province or the federal government, but run at a pretty long arm's length while still being accountable to the legislature. Some crown corps, like Hydro Quebec, produce their own revenue, so they have some market incentives to perform and are not subject to the whims of the annual government budget.
Doesn't that describe PG&E? It's run at "long arm's length" from the government because it's a private company, but it's also accountable to the CPUC.
> Some crown corps, like Hydro Quebec, produce their own revenue, so they have some market incentives to perform
What are these "market incentives to perform", and how does it not lead us back to square one with "these companies will cut costs to boost profits"?
There are lots of other examples like this outside of utilities. The US Postal Service, Amtrak, the Export-Import Bank, and many others.
And they trim trees in CA too, but unlike QC which is typically green in the summer, CA is typically full of dry vegetation and a spark in the grass is still going to start a massive fire.
I think that's the major part. It will look good for them from an ESG perspective. Also, I think some states, like CA, are talking about making the company pay for any fire starting from their equipment. So they are probably hedging that risk. If they wait, it could take them too long to complete the burial and then still be subjected to penalties under new laws in the future.
Edit: why downvote? These steps may reduce a small percentage of wildfires (10% from electric utilities and PG&E isn't the only one). I think the main reasons they are doing it are what I stated about. I doubt the company truly cares about this unless it reduced the financial risk and helped them in the ESG space.
And I guess some smaller fires might cost a lot, if they are near rich people's estates.
This obviously depends on local conditions. Where I lived then there was plenty of water so starting a large fire was not possible. The plenty of water also meant the ground wasn't stable. Of course they did need to maintain vegetation, but that is a known cost.
Throw in backhoes, erosion, etc. along with it being more expensive to fix when it does break, and overall it isn’t always guaranteed buried will be cheaper maintenance wise.
I don't know what PG&E will use in this case, but all buried power and transmission lines lines are robust against water infiltration. Solid-dielectric cables are rated for direct burial, and cooled lines are encased in steel conduit. Both types are sometimes further protected in concrete.
There's always another rat (or squirrel, or rabbit, or mole, or ...)
Growing up, this was something that occurred multiple times a year. Squirrels would climb the poles and short themselves across the 2 leads on the transformer. Zap, one less squirrel, and several hours without power while the power company came out to diagnose the problem and then send out for a replacement.
Independent vendors are faster, cheaper, and offer a more locally-adapted product.
The squirrels seemed to replace themselves without servicing. If only the transformers were capable of the same thing.
Not to mention that above ground lines have slack between poles while underground lines are pulled relatively taut. Any shifting in the ground is going to result in a break underground before a break above ground. Above ground lines are also better founded because the poles are sitting on foundations or driven deep so their ability to resist ground motion is a bit better while electric lines move with the ground around them pretty much in sync. This is particularly important in seismically active areas like CA but underground infrastructure actually typically performs better in actual seismic events.
While, yes, the cost to dig up a line is likely to be higher than the cost to repair a hanging line, that's just one cost and consideration. Economic loss due to wildfire as well as rolling brownouts to try and avoid wildfire are both costs you'd need to consider. You also have the cost to maintain vegetation around powerlines, vs basically no pre-emptive maintenance on buried lines (and little to no weathering).
And you, of course, have differing likelihoods of the line breaking in any case, which means the per-fix cost is only part of that picture. Lots of potential reasons, but I'd be curious to see a full study on those reasons for both above ground and below ground, their potential solutions, and their potential costs, but without that you have a very fuzzy picture.
"lo barato siempre es más caro"
The cheap is always more expensive.
Not over a 1-2 year time-span.
The unwillingness of corporations to minimize OpEx by taking on significant one-time CapEx, in order to pretty the books, lives on in so many domains.
Above-ground transmission lines are uninsulated because they don't need to be, and the extra weight of the insulation would require more expensive towers.
Also, if we get a major earthquake, are they going to have to dig all the lines up again?
Also, can we just note how crazy it is that this company blew up a neighborhood, burned down a town, was convicted in these separate incidents, and is still allowed to have a monopoly on power for a broad region? Why are corporate convicts apparently treated so well, but natural persons who are convicted are treated so poorly?
You want electricity, right? PG&E is one way to get it. You could replace the people in charge, you could replace the owners, you could even nationalize the whole thing and you still have the same problem: Vast amounts of incredibly expensive, aging infrastructure, drying climate, and homes built into the wildland boundary interface.
There's no magic trick that will solve this problem. The money for electrical upgrades will have to come from taxpayers and/or ratepayers; there isn't anyone else. And it will only reduce the probabilities of big fires. The huge Carr fire in Redding was started by sparks from a towed trailer. The LNU complex last year was lightning (plus one guy trying to cover up a murder with arson). It's not all electrical... probably not even a majority.
Power infrastructure on this magnitude requires an extraordinary amount of capital investment to set up. Who takes on their debt? The operating expenses for asset management and maintenance of a mature network are eyewatering when compared to their underground counterparts as there is a lot more numerous and frequent replacement activity for parts. Pole infrastructure may have a life span of 10-15 years but some parts will be replaced out every 3-5. Before you know it you pay for every pole 4 times over it's life. Now multiply that by several hundred thousand poles in a large network and then you start to get the picture. I'm not trying to be an apologist but I'm surprised from what I hear of American infrastructure that it's not a far more regular occurrence.
I highly doubt that. Their government claims about 55% of houses has underground power. There's parts of Europe where they're easily up to 90%+. For example in the Netherlands only (part of) the high-voltage transmission network is above-ground, all house connections are underground.
I think you might also be underestimating the scale of the power infrastructure in CA. The hydro etc. power generators in the north of the state are located in extremely remote areas.
My brother was a consulting engineer for PG&E in Northern CA, on a lot of their Hydropower infrastructure - most of the generation sites were only accessible by humans with helicopter flights, or 2-3 hr drives on poorly maintained roads. The transmission lines are not really accessible except by helicopter survey.
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNU_Lightning_Complex_fires
2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_Fire
3 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tubbs_Fire
To add, basically the last 4 years has been the burnout of a huge swath of forest in this area between the Camp fire, Bear fire, and now the Dixie fire, not to mention the many “small” fires that were caught/didn’t get established. The majority of land between highway 32 to the La Porte/Quincy highway has burned. Don’t have a good estimate since I’m on my phone, but 100s of square miles of mostly back country forest. Both the Camp and Bear fires made 10-15 mile runs in one day, and Dixie’s put up massive pyrocumulonimbus pretty much every day this week.
Edit to add: it’s also been incredibly dry, most of June-July has been upper 90s-low 100s, with a few 110+ periods. Humidity has also been extremely low, in the afternoons 8-12%. Even overnight it only recovers up to 40-45%. Higher elevations are cooler, but not so much that it mitigates, so the forest is pretty tinderbox right now. Once it’s lit it’s hard to put out.
> most of the PGE right-of-ways do look like freeways now through the forest, little to no under story growth.
I read the whole thing waiting for a point but there wasn't one. Just a waste of time. We already know the fires are bad, and that isn't relevant to the thread anyways.
Key to remember is that power lines can spark when they're damaged by winds (which can lead to the lines themselves being close enough to the ground for the spark to traverse to the underbrush).
The big high tension towers go through clear-cut rights of way.
The big headache is not burying cable. If there's nothing else in the ground, that's not too hard. It's working around water lines, sewer lines, gas lines, driveways, phone, data, cable TV...
Plus you'd have to do it regularly, not once.
No one is interested in farming alfalfa on 25% slopes with rocks 6” under any topsoil and massive trees to clear before it would even be usable.
Here's a marketing video for one of these piercing tools:
If anyone has any leads on startups or innovators in the tunneling space please share or each out!
I suspect that this is going to be an engineering project on the scale of the mythical California high-speed rail, and with the same life cycle. PG&E especially has a track record of misusing funds for upgrades and maintenance.
Singapore already has already achieved this. It's actually quite pleasant to not have any overhead lines.
They are currently replacing the main electricity distribution cables that run under roads, and replacing them with a system that runs in tunnels 60m underground. This depth is necessary to avoid other systems like the subway(MRT) that run at shallower depths. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/deepest-tunnels-spore-...
82% of Germany's power lines are buried: https://www.iwr.de/ticker/lange-leitungen-82-prozent-der-str... (in German). This figure includes everything from low-voltage lines to houses to high-voltage distribution lines.
Every building should have it's entire footprint as solar panels, and enough batteries to last the night. Imagine all the money saved on power lines and maintenance of them. Especially in sunny California this is a no-brainier.
Of course, the above mostly applies to high voltage & high current situations, think 150kV, 300MVA monster connections. I doubt PG&E manages 10k miles of high voltage power lines. If we're talking residential interconnections, there won't be any issues burying those.
In practice I have no clue how it works out though.
There are no rich shareholders to foist the costs on. No investors are going to pay tens of billions of dollars, more profit than PG&E generated over several decades, to pay for 10% of the electric wires to be buried. If there were any investors on the hook for this, they would simply declare bankruptcy and walk away.
The only option here is that the costs are paid by ratepayers, or taxpayers. There is no other option available.
IMHO an infrastructure of this size & importance might just as well be state owned, but I guess rate hikes will also do. As long as there is some mechanism to help (yes, probably with tax money) those who might not be able to afford them...
It's far from perfect, but actually-public utilities are responsible for a lot of disasters too. It's not obvious that nationalizing PG&E would be good for anyone.
CA has some of the most expensive electricity in the nation. So it doesn't seem like the idea worked out.
In PG&E's defense, it's not literally cost-plus, and the CPUC doesn't always rubber stamp everything. Imagining the government alternative, what would really be different? There will still be a big bureaucratic organization full of imperfect humans with muddy incentives and limited resources. Would PG&E be better if the board of directors was appointed by politicians instead of elected by shareholders? I doubt it.
PG&E has to get approval for their spend from the PUC and for any rate hikes.
BUT it won't stop wild fires if forest maintenance continues to remain unfunded by the California state government!
Putting lines underground definitely will also increase maintenance costs - that's why overhead lines get used in the first place. So electricity rates will remain higher as well.
Subterrainian cables are more expensive and less energy efficient than aerials. High capacitive losses, higher maintenance and installation costs, more expensive shielding and jacketing materials needed.
This plan will burn 300 * 10,000 = 3,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
This plan is far worse for the environment then simply doing more controlled burns to reduce fire risk.
- lets environmentalists file viable injunctions against logging on federal lands
- prohibits or greatly limits grazing
Piss take, I know, but nature is pressing her reset button and it's our fault. Let's not act like PG&E has anything to do with it.
This is good for PG&E because it can't be blamed for wild fires. The wild fires will still continue to happen only now it will be the set remaining causes:
(lightning, car exhaust systems, campers' fires, arsonists, ...)
It's NOT primarily or even remotely Global Warming however. California has a fundamentally dry climate the intrinsically assures wild fires will occur. Expanding in wild fire prone areas is a direct result of real estate booms and costs, which are primarily high for artificial human reasons such as NIMBYism, greed, real estate as investment, etc.
Global warming is an amplifier for wildfire risk, not a cause. The increasing length of the dry season under the influence of global warming has made these sorts of fires that much more likely.
That's for sure an opinion I would love to have more information on.
It's probably worth it to the customers, too. So much so that PG&E's survival is in question if they don't start taking fire safety super-seriously.
Look at figure 41.2 in the second pdf.
Wildfires are not historically worse than they have ever been. You're falling victim to recency bias. You can absolutely credibly claim that wildfires are not more or less common than they have been historically, it's all in the noise. The activists have not been proven right, and the corporations have not been proven wrong.
edit: note that I'm not denying the existence of climate change nor denying that it may eventually have an effect on forest fires. I'm merely claiming that the data does not support what you're saying.
1. While the number of fires have reduced, the total area consumed by fires is still rising.
2. The average area fired up is increasing at an alarming rate (Fig. 41.3, still upto 2000 only.) Refer the first document. Fig. I, the trend in forest fire area affected is increasing, from about 2 million acres in 1990 to about 10 million acres in 2020.
Also, fig 41.2 is data from 1908 to 1988.
Edit : Please see the 10 million acre figure in the first PDF. Think of the enormous costs related to containing the fire. The data is not in isolation. Fire-fighting techniques and costs have to be taken into account.
This document from US govt explains how much they are spending fighting forest fires. Budget for wildfire management rose from 15% in 1995 to about 52% in 2015, with more increase projected upto 2025.
Also, the cost of wildfires is enormous.
In fact, Figure 1 in your first pdf says just that: the “count” of fires is similar to that in 1991, but the area burned has more than tripled.
That is what people are talking about: the past few years have had mega fires and “complex fires”.