tv Hearing on Wildfires the Electric Grid CSPAN December 19, 2019 8:37pm-10:14pm EST
senior senator from north dakota be authorized to sign duly enrolled bills or joint resolutions during today's session of the senate. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: mr. president, if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: the senate stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. on monday, 10:00 a.m. on monday, >> today's senators pet the two spending package that will fund the federal government for 2020 averting a government shutdown tomorrow at midnight. senators confirm judicial nominees in a deputy secretary of state nomination, lives senate coverage is always here on to span two.
now if we take a look at the impact of wildfires on the u.s. electric grid, mitigation technology, forest management and power system reliability. >> good morning everyone. the committee will come to order. last hearing of the year here. there's a lot going on this morning so i think we will have people popping in and out but we do have a pretty hard to stop at 11:00 o'clock this morning. a series of votes that are beginning at 11:00 a.m. and we are going to observe an actual ten minute clock, we are told. it will be the first time in senate history but that is the goal. we want to be able to hear from
everyone this morning and have an opportunity for the very, very important conversations regarding this issue. we are here to discuss the impact of wildfires on the reliability of our electric grid and efforts to mitigate wildfire risk and increase good resiliency. in recent years devastating wildfires and related electricity blackouts in california have drawn national attention to the challenge of maintaining grid resiliency in the face of extreme conditions. tragically as you remember the campfire in the deadliest and most destructive fire in california history which incinerated the town of paradise, killed 85 people. state investigators determined the fire was caused by degraded 97 -year-old powerlines during the so-called fire whether it it's consisted of strong winds, low committee, dry vegetation and heat. the camp fire was a sobering wake-up call on the inherent risk of maintaining thousands of miles of aboveground powerlines across fire prone landscapes.
california ringleaders in several of the states largest utilities to increase their use of public safety power shutoffs or ps ds bands as a precaution against possible wildfire during high wind events. in canada the measure of last resort plans call for utilities to deenergize powerlines in extreme weather conditions and block out large portions of their service territory. from june through november at least nine ps ps advance cut power for more than 3 million californians. for some these blackouts lasted a few hours and brothers power went on for nearly six days. these blackouts occurred not only with the rugged terrain of northern cal for a nap but also in the greater metro areas of san francisco, san diego and los angeles county. repeat scenarios could be with us for a very long time. according to the testimony that we will hear today wildfire
blackouts could be california's new normal for the next ten, 30 years or perhaps even longer. one would expect to see such living conditions in developing countries but not in some of our most populated and prosperous places here in the united states and certainly not in a state with some of the highest electricity prices in the nation. this challenge is not limited to california but dense vegetation and hazard entries interfering with powerlines are not an uncommon cause of wildfires. neither integrated energy infrastructure. our national basis the u.s. forest service estimates more than 277 fires from 2017-2018 can be traced to powerlines. several of the fires emerged into the 2016 great smoky mountains wildfire was started by wind to downed power. it's a great smoky mountain wild bears were the deadliest in the eastern u.s. since the great fires of 1947. in my home state of alaska
buyers north of anchorage are believed to be connected to powerlines in a region that has pretty high spruce bark beetle mortality. an investigation is still pending but a tree falling onto a registration line is expected because of the mckinley fire this summer which resulted in the loss of 56 homes. the danger in alaska, like elsewhere in the nation, is powerlines are necessarily located near homes and schools and businesses and that is just a fact. private change, drought, in fact insect infestation and poor forestation has made forest more susceptible to fire and is more people build homes and the wild and urban interface or dispersed communities the chances for utility related wildfires are sure to increase. in this era of mega- fires congress has stepped in to ensure the federal government is not a roadblock to clearing dense vegetation and hazard trees from utility right of
ways. in 2018 we passed the electric liability as part of the 2018 consolidated appropriations act. that law directs federal land managers directs light the clearing of vegetation within 100 feet of powerline corridors on federal land. it is my understanding the bolts apartment of the interior and the forest service are now incrementing that important measure. now, we must turn our attention to what can be done to harden our energy input structure and improve the resiliency of our grid in high fire risk areas during these extreme weather conditions for this is a compex problem that will require collaboration at all levels and partnerships with the electric industry so i think those of you who have joined us this morning to provide important testimony and i think colleagues for being here and i will now turn to senator manchin for his comments before we begin the panel. >> thank you, chairman murkowski. i want to take a moment of
personal time here if i can. today will be the last meeting of a person who's been with me for a long time in my committee and she has been with me in my state office, not the state office but my dc office and my chief counsel there and moved over when i became raking member as the director of the ranking member staff and they've done a tremendous job. sarah has a new little baby so she now has two little babies and things then and life changes and we are just so sorry that she won't be on the committee are working in committee or leading this staff but she will always be near and dear to us by her phone and we will not let her escape to far. with that, sarah, i want to thank you for your services. [applause]
chairman murkowski, thank you for holding your hearing today on the electric grid. wildfires are a threat to cripple infrastructure including the electric grid but as we have seen in several instances of equipment failure they can spark wildfires. this is especially true for western states. we have seen several catastrophic buyers and calpurnia for this impacts eastern states, too. in my home state of west virginia it is not been exempt. overthinking and weekend the fire burned 1300 acres in west virginia. fortunately no homes were damaged but other homes have not been so lucky. over the last few years california has been extremely hard hit hard by wildfires and the impacts have been devastating. last year the campfire alone killed 85 people and destroyed 14000 homes in the town of paradise. i appreciate mr. bill johnson, president of pg and e, corporation being here today and willing to talk about his company's understanding of the respects that were made, lessons
learned and the operational changes pg andy is changing to ensure this never happens again. wildfires are increasing in intensity, size and frequency and we will need a new approach to mitigate their devastating impacts and insure electricity and for structure isn't starting the fire spread they also are getting harder to control due to climate change, lack of forest management and role fire for areas but this is affecting millions of people and i look for to hearing from our panel about available technology and management practices and what innovative solutions are needed to reduce risks. the department of energy international labs including [inaudible] are working on modernizing the electric grid and we need to address this relationship between wildfires in a grid both in terms of wildfires impacting the grid and also electricity and per structure wildfires and there is no silver bullet but we can and should look to learn from the utilities that made their grid
most resilient to wildfires and those that have the best service delivered the schools for maintenance and infection practices, installations of new and improved technologies to detect problems early, risk mitigation like tree trimming or powerlines and deenergizing powerlines as a last resort. of course the last resort should not bar which pg andy and other utilities have done proactively several times in recent months during high winds. i can imagine how disruptive that was plans of customers and businesses that event every day on electricity you provided so i hope you will explain to us today why that was a step you took in those particular circumstances and how effective they were. i understand during one of the pg&e shut off 218 instances of wind damage were discovered and 24 would likely have started wildfires if you had not taken precautionary actions. the shut off me and prevented
several fires but also came at a great cost but it raises the question that if we have to shut off the power how can we do it in a way that causes the least harm to customers. finally, i look forward to hearing from the witnesses about ways that congress can be hopeful. i know we took a big step forward providing the provision in the 2018 omnibus to make it easier for utilities to do the required maintenance especially for the smaller role of electrical co-ops. i welcome your thoughts and additional actions that we can take to make it easier to clean up and an area of wildfire including the timber from the trees killed by the fire before the timbered rots. it makes no sense to me at all. we want to avoid the devastation caused by wildfires and have a reliable, grid to power our homes and businesses. in the face of increasing wildfire risk we need to do every thing we can to manage and reduce the rising risks. i look forward to hearing from witnesses and what they have to say about how to do that so thank you, chairman murkowski
and i think our witnesses for coming and making it to be here today. >> thank you, senator mansion. we will begin with our panel this morning again. thank you for being here and the contributions that you will make to this important discussion. the panel will be let out by mr. bill johnson and mr. johnson is ceo and president for pg&e corporation. i know that this has been a very difficult time for you for all within the pg&e family. it is and has been a significant challenge and i know you have made every effort to be open and transparent as you deal with this and share these lessons learned grid we are appreciative you are here with us this morning. the doctor michael where is here with the senior research into student scholar at stanford scott corwin is the executive
director for the northwest public power association. we appreciate your contributions this morning bring carl inhofe is the manager for the electricity organ sector at one of our fabulous national labs at pacific northwest national laboratory. we are thankful you are here. the panel will be rounded off by doctor russell. he is professor and director of power system automation laboratory at the department of electrical and computer engineering at texas a&m university. we appreciate you being here today. we ask you to keep your comments to about five minutes with your full statements will be included as part of the record and then we have an opportunity for them back and forth with mr. johnson, welcome to committee. >> thank you so much good good morning fred i'm bill johnson, president and ceo of pg&e corporation but i appreciate the invitation to be here in the committee's interest in wildfires. in the impacts to electric grid reliability and resilience.
as has been mentioned in california and throughout the west we seen a dramatic increase in wildfires as a result of a changing climate. which has a dramatic effect on our electric system and how we operate and just seven years ago 15% of pg&e service area was designated as having elevated higher risks. that number is over 50% today and will continue to grow so in the seven years the risk of fire more than tripled for our service area in northern california and california is experience the most destructive wildfires in the past two years and its deadliest pg&e is deeply sorry for the role that our equipment had in those fires and the losses that occurred because of them and were taken action to prevent prevented from happening again. we invested over 30 billion in our electric system over the last decade including more than $3 billion in vegetation management and today we are taking that work a step further
by increasing vegetation management in the high-risk areas, incorporating analytic and predictive capabilities and expanding the scope and intrusiveness of our inspection process. this year we expected every element of our electric system within the high threats fire areas, examining almost 730,000 structures and 25 million discrete related components in about four months. we deployed 600 weather stations and 130 high resolution cameras across our service area to bolster situational awareness and emergency response. we are using satellite data and modeling techniques to predict wildfires spread and behavior and hardening our system in those areas where the fire credit is highest by installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered lines as well as underground team.
this year we took the unprecedented step of intentionally turning off power for safety during a string of severe wind events where we saw 100 mile-per-hour winds in northern california. this decision affected millions of our customers and cause them destruction and hardship even as it succeeded in the goal of protecting human life. the nature of this risk the potential consequences of it requires to plan, operate and maintain our systems differently than we ever have and this will require a focus on resilience as well as reliability. that is where the lessons here are applicable to the beyond california and the committee has noted this resilience and reliability are related but they are distinct. our customers including critical infrastructure first responders have long depended on reliable service but today more than ever our ability to provide reliable service depends on the cumbrian's of societal approach to resilience. congress addressed reliability
to section 15 of the federal power act nearly 15 years ago and congress could address resilience now to potential actions that include directing doe to develop a framework and process for economic cost benefit analysis of resilience investment, increased eligibility and funding for existing energy assistance and community resilience programs and support research and of element of new technologies and forward thinking data and promoting public-private partnerships to establish voluntary resilience zones and building codes and standards. specific to address the wildfire threat we believe the federal government should continue its focus on funding forest management and fire suppression activities, and plummeting forest and vegetation management policies advanced by senator daines and congressman schrader. ensuring access to federal lands for prevention and response and authorizing federal agencies to share satellite data wildfire detection.
we know that addressing this risk starts with us and our own operations and why we are focused on risk-based approach mitigating the dynamic risk facing the company and this industry. let me conclude by saying pg&e remains committed to doing every thing in our power to build a better and safer future for all and that is what our customers deserve. thank you for the opportunity. >> thank you, mr. johnson. doctor, welcome. >> [inaudible] >> senator murkowski, senator manchin, thank you very much for having me before the committee to discuss this issue there are real [inaudible] at least in the california context these threats raise significant questions regarding how and elements of the transmission system across hydrant areas should be operated during increasingly common and increasingly dangerous late fall
dry, high wind events. as bill johnson just discussed pg&e headspace, enormous threats to its system and has for the first time this year used widespread public safety power shutoffs as a tool to create safety and as you mentioned in her opening remarks this is not just an issue for rural or more california but it directly impacts millions of people in metro areas in california as well. the use of ps ps is preventing wildfire and caused widespread disruption families and businesses especially in northern california. these events though they do to radically include safety are very costly to the health of the economy, especially in smaller communities. my best estimate using tool develops of the laboratory indicates that pg&e events of 2019 likely because customers more than $10 billion.
failure of transmission components during high winds is not a new phenomenon in california and indeed the wildfire has modern approaches to [inaudible] which cause by transmission line failure. similarly, can fire was ignited by failure of a transmission line and this year and perhaps most concerning of all, failure of a jumper on a 230 kb line in the geysers appeared to across the kincaid fire. while the kincaid fire was superbly managed by the newsom administration it could have resulted in property loss as least as large as the campfires that came before us. in addition there's at least a suggestion that two fires in southern california were potentially caused by transmission system failures this year. and emphasize that the turning 19 fires are still very much
under investigation and we don't fully understand their causes but there are strong suggestions of vulnerability in the transmission system. prior to the seer preemptive to the de- energization of the outlets was relatively limited. mostly involved slower voltage, transmission lines that were much older and the failures we observed this year indicate that even fire voltage lines provide system reliability may be vulnerable during high wind events. it was prudent based on recent experience who is considered including all these lines perhaps the very highest line in the ps ps protocols and that has potentially significant ramifications for both the system reliability in california and impact beyond the height wildfire that areas for our customers. currently california regulators and utilities are engaged in urgent examination of inspection testing particles for these critical components to
understand why the failures are occurring. the kincaid and tower that may have caused the commute fire was inspected at least four times over the last 24 months and yet it failed. we need to understand why and need to understand what mitigating actions we can take to ensure both system liabilities maintained even through ps pf events. all this raises important questions about how to approach system maintenance and operation moving forward in areas that face significant wildfire threat. traditionally some risk of the mechanical failure was acceptable because failures to occur during wet winter storms but today in california at least the failure for managers worry about is mechanical failure when it is windy, dry and the fuels are cured. these conditions are highly intolerant of any failure of the transmission system to operate properly and this change in the consequence of failure mode
means tolerance for errors have to be much lower than the cost-effective approach developed during the 20th century. moreover whether climate conditions indicate that this problem will get worse, not better. it's likely to spread beyond california into a broader impact on the western united states. the legislator and governor newsom have worked relatively successfully over the last year to reduce the perceived of financial risks of these impacts on customers on the utilities and on the victims of fires. i would point to passage of the wildfire fund legislation this summer which provided a possible exit for pg&e out of bankruptcy and help stabilize gas and electric credit ratings. ...
reducing fuel loads so the consequence of our lives. i'm hopeful. i am hopeful. hopeful about lessons learned can be fruitful for other states as the wildfire threats both from the electric system and other causes increases due to climate change. thank you. >> thank you, chairman michalski, ranking members of the committee for holding the hearing today.
dedicated to safety, reliability and affordability, wildfire stands out as a major threat to the principles into something that you. the association is comprised of 158 consumer owned electric utilities across the region with land that's mostly under federal ownership in many places and where many of the largest wildfires that are. if you live in these areas later you and your family, friends are impacted its very real in these areas and tucked my father-in-law was a smoke jumper in the 1960s in oregon and still is for wildfires reached the suburban neighborhoods. the communities and the greatest stability of the mobilized and
analyzed the gaps of the need from implementing plans that include dozens of actions on topics like enhanced inspections, operational practices, situational awareness, vegetation management, system hardening, circuit re- closing and others you will hear about today. we thank you in congress for your work and at this all takess funding so we thank you for stabilizing the federal funding. it is an important part of this equation and it's important that we get the best bang for the buck for this impertinent cause. members know the best way to avoid fire is to eliminate fuel fire ignition in the first place. but unfortunately, delays and removing trees in the widening corridors that are no longer wide enough have exacerbated the catastrophic wildfire. some were 80% of the land owned by the federal government.
management of the land demands a truth partnership between federal agencies and utilities that need approval to maintain those rights of way. to that end we thank you for passing the amendment for the policy management act to promote federal consistency accountability and timely decision-making. now we are looking for consistent coordinated click implementation of the law and we appreciate the service recently issuing a proposed rule on this. we will review these brief memos but they set the tone of compliance with the law that congress intended which is encouraging. we highlight several things that the agency's move forward to ensure the greatest safety reliability and resilience. we need guidelines that eliminate the need for the case-by-case approvals for the routine operations and control of the trees and i'd like to see
a culture of responsiveness. we have many good relationships with the hard-working employees. they share our goal with the stewardship of the federal land is a more consistent standards is great for all sides exclusions to the lengthy process under the national environmental policy act for the routine and regular work of the hazard tree removal. we need more training for agency staff on the electrical system knowledge and we are ready to provide it as the wall outlines. we'd like to see a straightforward implementation of allowing the quick action. this is vital to the decisive action to protect people and electrical systems and it's important that we see implementation of the provisions in the act on the liability.
liability. there's been a lot of uncertainty and layers of the state and local level that utilities need to comply with and create risk and even when there is no indication that a utility causing event will receive an invoice for damages even years afterwards without process. finally, we should build on the coordination we are seeing increasingly among the utilities and federal and state and local agent on how to protect critical systems and we stand ready to assist on that as well. we appreciate your leadership on the committee an and prioritizen wildfire prevention and suppression and there's a lot more to do and the faster we act, the better. i'm glad to answer any questions and provide additional information for the record of your request and thank you again for having the hearing and for being here today. >> good morning and thank you
members of the committee for the opportunity to join the session today. my name is kara lynn and i lead the research program at the pacific northwest national laboratory in washington state. i also have the honor of serving as the chair of the modernization consortium which is a team of 14 national laboratory is led by the labs that work with industries, state and university partners to support the grid modernization initiative. for over two decades we've supported the power system reliability innovation resilience for the nation delivering working with industry to deliver important outcomes ranging from cyber resilience for three quarters the electricity generated in the united states, national networks integrated storage concepts that are delivering the flexibility we need for the resilient systems of the future. today i would like to offer three points related to the issues for the session. number one the grid modernization strategy is focused on the reliability and
hazard resilience for the modern grid so the fir fighter safety issues are a part of that. industry and a dod archive in a systematically identify and develop a very that directly supports the wildfire activity and i will share some of those details and then third the nation has the opportunity i believe moving forward to leverage the recent industry experiences that have been discussed so far in the session to inform new planning and operational scenarios to better reflect the wildfire in all aspects of how the system is planned and operated coming into the future. for clarity i use the academy of engineering definition of resilience as analysis in the first place and then if and when they do actually occurred. to the first point, the grid modernization initiative focuses
on all hazard resilience and enables the system operators, federal land managers, states and communities to address the wildfire risk. this means human threats like cyber and physical attacks, such as hurricanes and wildfires and normal system risks of equipment failures. three, topics within the portfolio are most abundant to wildfire. first advanced data analytics in and the second extreme event planning tools and third, the real-time operational emergency response tools during wildfire events. the tools are foundational they leverage some of these data assets and the machin machine lg concepts provide the capacity to analyze high velocity data streams.
extreme event planning tools on the capability to access the complex and large threat scenarios of hazards again in the threat scenarios to identify the most resilient design options in the face of a system that's getting more variable, more connected at the edge, more interdependent with other critical infrastructures and facing more challenging threats. and the real-time operational concepts are providing operators with insights on the risks and decision support that is moving from the paradigm of the hours and days ahead to the second and minutes ahead. regarding the industry engagement, they approached in august regarding the results that could support industry preparations for the 2020 fire season. industry expressed particular interest and expertise into satellite imagery to conduct a damage assessment situational awareness and they also saw the advanced technology to detect and protect against imminent failure. third, they expressed interest
in the data analytics tools and a recently delivered a set of options about 15 or 20 options to the industry for consideration. just a few examples include the deprived censors and machine algorithms testing. dhs developed satellite assessment tools for hurricanes and the u.s. forest service platform for the biomass assessment, detection and vegetation types currently deployed in washington state are extendable to other high-risk national forest and range areas in the west. and lastly, emergency response tools from sandia and oak ridge for the situational awareness and emergency mapping of a finally, the national academy of resilience reported in 2017 encouraged industry to be more expensive than framing the resilience scenarios against which the grid of the future needs to be designed.
i believe industry coordination to develop the electricity sub sector coordinating council to ensure the connection in the investor realand theinvestor rec entities and in the recent wildfire lessons with the agenda to deliver the blue ribbon cases and scenarios that would enhance the industry efforts to mitigate and protect against wildfire. thank you very much. >> thank you mr. inhofe. welcome to the committee. >> thank you very much for the invitation to be here. i am here to talk about how to prevent powerline caused wildfires. on a december day, and these are real examples from actual utilities, to electric power lines came together and clashed. they broke the line. it was christmas, december 25. the lines went out on hundreds of customers just as dinner went into the oven. power was off for hours. medals thrown off from the conductors and thankfully a fire didn't start on that specific day, but a lot of people lost
christmas dinner because they didn't get to it. what utility operators didn't know about that event was this colonco that christmas day outage was caused by an event that had occurred five times in exactly the same place over the previous four years. that was the fifth time that event had occurred. on tow now, no system was available but any utility could use to automatically provide operators the information necessary to find and fix this specific problem. regular inspections by the utility had found absolutely nothing and it had been inspected multiple times. in fact, it has been inspected exclusively for the purpose of finding why this has happened. repetitive faults that occur one day may start a fire the next time they occur. sometimes that's years from now, and the ultimate failure could have been predicted. texas a&m university developed a
distribution fault anticipation technology. a system used algorithms to monitor electric circuits to detect the earliest stages of failing devices and miss operations. the concept is simple. find and fix it before the catastrophic failure causes the fire or the outage. when this occurs today coming utilities havthe day comingutiln equipment that very quickly maybe in a few hundred milliseconds the energized as the power lines, but the fault may have already caused the fire. that's the best they can do with the equipment they have. the root cause may have started days or weeks and in some cases years before the catastrophic failure caused the fire. digital analytics can now detect the earliest stages of a device long in advance of the catastrophic failure. instead of waiting to react to the failure, let's find and fix it early.
early. texas a&m researchers monitor for over 100 circuit 100 circuie longitudinal study for over 15 years, capturing every failure and miss operation on the circuits. the largest database of its existence in the world. we now know how those with her and we now know how they can be detected. let me give you an example, another example. a failing clamp like this one that did fail by the way caused a power line to fall to the ground causing an outage for hundreds of customers that happened in tennessee. i don't remember if anybody hears from tennessee. it was a potential mechanism once it hit the ground. with the utility operators did not know is that for the previous 21 days before it caused the wind default, a condition had occurred 2,333 times. in the last half of the 21 days, every one of those conditions represented in a commission
mechanism of the ground conditions were correct so let's call it an average of ten days and something on the order of 1200 events from each one of those had an opportunity to start a fire. with advanced technology, texas a&m researchers were able to detect that clamp that i'm talking about in the very first moments of the first day 21 days before the failure occurred. we ran a blind study. they didn't know we were doing this and operationally they just let us go out and put this on the system. so we were not going for 21 days. by 1950 chevrolet didn't have anything in it that told me that it was broken or that it was going to break. it stops when it stopped running. today we have a computer under the that tells us these things are going to happen to you and sometime you better get in and get this fixed because it is
going to break your car in a day or two or a week or three. in medicine we now use advanced diagnostic equipment to fight cancer early so that can be cured long before catastrophe. we've got an analogy here to the distribution circuits. and that is a new tool allowing operators to have continual self-assessment of all circuits 24/7 to identify the devices and fix them before catastrophic failures occur or cause an outage or cause a fire. it's important to know, extremely important to know no technology or program is ever going to prevent all voyeurs. that's just not possible. but what we need to do is use every tool that is available to us to prevent every fire that we possibly can because some of those fires of course are devastating. the reality is this texas a&m university operating on different utilities with this technology has demonstrated that a new tool can find and fix and
diagnose and help you locate many of the things that are actually causing fires. i pull up on my phone and put in a code i pull up a picture and i will give you that on the substation in australia on the substation a common circuit a, the fault occurred 335 amps replaced itself and ultimately ended up closing at 12:55. i know more from this phone with this technology stand the operators know in that futility in australia and i'm sitting here in washington, d.c.. this technology is available and ready to use and it will prevent some players.
this has been very interesting kind of the progression of the testimony this morning. we are talking about real issues on the ground that have had a devastating impact, loss of life and property that has been horrific and an acknowledgment of how we deal with the vegetation and management decided to then move to the technology on prevention is a good way to have this discussion before the committee. mr. johnson, i want to begin with you and this relates to the situation as it is now in the fact that during this fire season they had to employ a safety shutoff to make sure that there was a level of safety and certainly it interferes with
that reliability that a customer expects that the reality that tt sometimes you've got to prioritize between the reliability versus the resilience and truly the safety. there's nobody on the committee from california so i will ask the question that californians probably want to know, and that is in terms of impact to customers going forward, how long do you anticipate that pg&e will have to resort to additional events? that impact i think it was viewed ayouthat mentioned the fl impact to the communities. it is real and tangible and very personal so can you speak to
that impact of the situation? >> i can give you an estimate and be as precise as i can. it goes back to the early 2,007 california and really it's after the fires of 2007 in san diego and gas and electric. 12 years later they are still doing these events. i think for us in northern california it'll take is probably five years to get to the point that we can largely eliminate this tool. there are a number of things we can do to narrow the scope and duration. we have better predictive capabilities, better technology that you heard about. so, i think over the next couple of years you will see a progression of shorter and fewer events. but the climate change and the weather change is dramatic enough i don't think we will see the end of it for some period of
time. >> i mentioned the situation in alaska with the fires this summer the winds coming through to the peninsula area that were impacted by the fire in the region and it has limited the ability to move the power from bradley lake hydro all the way up to fairbank so those that are closer to the source if you will, there rate will not be impacted if you will, but we are learning that as we are going into the colder darker winter months in the interior of the costs are already high, this is impacting them and it's something that i think often times we forget you don't have to be in the range of the fire to have your great impacted by
what we are seeing with these significant event. when we talk about hardening the grid, we know that it would certainly eliminate some of the risks of downed lines because of fire, but the cost is considerable. you're in california which is a seismically prone area. you did mention though that underground and was one of the things that they are looking at. can you speak a little more to that and whether that is even viable? >> historically underground in was usually for aesthetic purposes. in downtown you wanted to beautify you to the lines underground and in recent years as we build substation subdivisions and other things more underground, and we do plan to underground more in
california distribution lines. you get to a certain voltage and you cannot underground it. this isn't going to be a complete answer as you point o out. when the line is underground and you have a problem with it is much harder to find a problem then when it's overhead so there will be more of this but it will be much more targeted and it won't be a large percentage of the lines. >> i have additional questions that people have everybody go around. senator manchin? >> i want to thank all of our presenters today. i will give the rest of my questions to you right now because pg&e is known and we agreed at a meeting yesterday and you were forthcoming and saying the responsibilities you took on the bankruptcy, coming out of bankruptcy and with the
different people that were concerned and basically affected by these fires. nothing that we say will bring back the lives of the people lost and i know that you share your grief on that. where are you financially going to make it are you going to survive and be around to serve your customers? where are you as far as upgrading the apartment and making the changes? i think that it had some great comments and also technology that might be helpful if you can give us just a run down financially where you are at and where the families are where the company is come and where you are on your income and upgrades to make sure you can prevent as much as humanly possible from ever happening again. >> thank you for the questions. i came here b about seven, eigh, months ago. i've never been in a bankrupt
situation before. we are now the wikipedia of bankruptcy so i can answer the questions. we've taken the most important step, which is to resolve to settle to make amends to the victims that lost loved ones or lost their home, so we've made settlements and the bankruptcy court has approved all the settlements with people the own money to. that is the key thing. there's a lot of other things that have to happen in bankruptcy. we've lined up the financing to finance a new entity when it comes out that there is still a lot of work and who the eventual owner is will be determined by the bankruptcy court but at least in my mind the most important thing has happened which is we have made amends to the people affected by these fires. in terms of, by the way in the california law, we have to be out by the end of june next year so we will know the answer pretty quickly about what it's going to look like.
we've done a tremendous amount of work and this year alone we expected everyone in the district to repair for needed repaired and on a priority basis. we looked at every substation we are installing and regarding vegetation management. historically the vegetation management tools in california were pretty restrictive. they have been loosened so we are clearing up a lot more. we are doing about everything we can and we are adopting the technology from the national lab in from texas a and m. and from australia, so we are sort of operating on all fronts to make the system safer and more resilient. >> do you have anything to add to that as far as you have been evaluating and is there any other panel of comments because it's been the most devastating thing they have ever seen and our heart goes out to every evey become a family member that's lost a loved one.
i was very impressed with mr. johnson basically saying they were at fault and the company was at fault and even though he's new to this, they are trying to make amends and make them correct. we will see how this ends up, but is there any more that can be done or other actions taken? >> there is more that can be done not because they've been using state-of-the-art government available to them, that is an important point. you hear this in the papers we've heard some back from world war ii. we build very rigorous power systems in the united states. they are meant to last for decades and decades. there are lines outside of our house but have been there since the 1940s that are still delivering power and frankly there isn't much wrong with them because it is probably better than what we put up today. you have to be careful talking about age and a power system
because they are meant to last a long time. you can have a power system that will come down exactly the same way tomorrow in a vegetation related incident that would have if it had been 20 or 30 years stratford at what is more that we can do? >> we need to use advanced diagnostics. everything everybody says they want to do is good. clear more trees, harden the system can't use stronger poles, all those are good things. i will tell you because i've i'e lived all of the fires in california that are significant as what was in texas and oklahoma and other places, many of the things we are doing are not addressing the important things causing the fires. spending an awful lot of money, we should, don't take it to say we shouldn't because the one thing that you do may prevent the biggest fire that you are about to have. but there are a lot of fires none of the hardening is going to fix. we need more diagnostics.
they are able today to diagnose your car, able to diagnose your condition and health of your body and we can most certainly diagnose in real-time a lot of things failing the power systems. >> thank you very much madam chair. >> ranking member mansion. a dead and dying trees powerlines can increase the severity of wildfires and puts the safety of the firefighters at risk. in fact last year's unspeakable tragedy where 85 lives were suddenly lost but we need to focus on the dangerous interactions that can take place between the hazardous forest conditions and electrical transition infrastructure. in fact going back to montana's terrible fire season in 2017, i remember reaching out to one of the county commissioners. he shared a startling story with me about firefighters and the risk that they could not take of putting firefighters near
high-voltage transmission lines because of the carbon emitted and it could come from the line to the ground and at that point that battle is almost lost. we have the chance to be proactive in managing the vegetation along the high-voltage lines that when the fire starts, he said we can't move our firefighters near that. lives are at risk because of the eiffel pitched whines. -- high-voltage lines. we must increase active forest management.
>> often it occurs to the lies s at the top that creates another fault condition on the cover system. having a firefighter standing in a top is a little much but they are going to put it up so it could be very dangerous. >> if something happens there is a fault. aren't there those devices that would automatically trip that
line so that it doesn't continue to feed the fire? >> there is questions there let me take them in the order. the device that you have in your bathroom is 7 million is approximately its got a very, very low initial current and it's not detected by any advice it's operating at 5 million mike bathroom which is lower so it couldn't detect. that is a problem. the things we are using today are looking for higher occurrence. can this be engineered? we have a device that informs us
but how about engineering a device that will trip the circuit? >> tripping the circuit would be the direct consequence of the first being able to detect it. we have the technology to detect it and we already know how to trip the circuits so integrating this into the system of course is a plan that has to be done. utilities are using good equipment once it becomes higher current. pg and e. equipment which i'm familiar with both detec detect default in a few hundred milliseconds. the problem is it can start at 16. based on the research done in australia it shows iten to 20 m. we don't have equipment today that could remotely do that. the last part of the question most lines that are dropped, can we detect them before they hit
the ground, there's work that has been done and experimented with. a good friend of mine ran that project. it's a wonderful thing to do, but the problem is this there's nothing wrong with that if we can do it. the wind drops, cut it off before it hits the ground. but what caused it to fall in the first place it may have been what was detectable days before. i'm talking about the technology that will keep us from having -- >> it was important testimony. let me ask another question. is this sort of a chicken and egg are these problems in california caused by failures failures in the presence of a lot of fuel or are they caused by the weather event that
created the fuel in other words is it waitin it waned, somethint causes it or could the kind of technology we are talking about here obviate the problem or is it a different problem caused by the climate issues? >> you could have a system working well in the current configuration with the 100-mile per hour wind and you have a fire so it is a weather related. it is a weather event, so as the technology would help because the center has blown through the line, it would shut the line off. the other thing here is just so
dry. i moved to california in april and it didn't rain until thanksgiving, eight months with no brain. one spark. it's just a spark. anything that would stop the current immediately would be a tremendously helpful technology. >> there is an undertone to this and that is quite a change. we talked about a lot around here in abstract terms going to be meeting on it in a half an hour but here is a direct dollars and cents impact affecting the consumer's individual's families, lives all over the country and addressing that problem if shows up in the 140 million dead trees because of drought. the increase in wind speed and
direction this is a climate driven experience. >> thank you. very important testimony. >> the conversations with the witnesses this morning, mr. johnson got talking about the impact that you've seen in california you've seen municipal loaloan cooperative's investor utilities that faced the same kind of questions obviously. in your testimony you mentioned over 50% of your service area is designated in the threat. could you remind me again that footprint in th that part of the service area? >> we cover about 70,000 square miles in california. half of that is in the higher threat districts to 35,000 square miles and 30,000 linear miles of line and about a third
in that designation are in the federal land. >> that gets into the issue of climate change as well and practices because they have a significant impact on the threat that could come from more fuel and management practices matter or the lack of management practices to the company's transmission infrastructure you would agree with that. >> it makes a big difference. as you talk and listen to some of the testimony this morning commute $3.8 billion the citizens when? >> the last decade. >> and that is in your own right of way. during the farm bill negotiations we talked about this we had some success across the aisle on the program that allowed for the mitigation to work on federal lands and as
good a job a of a job as you don that right-of-way with the massive fire burns in the forest 50 yards from the transmission lines that is going to have an effect on your infrastructure as well. the infrastructure is going to be affected so it makes sense to try to empower them to be able to deal with outside of that to give a bit of a buffer would you agree? in colorado they are working to partner with the forest service to utilize the authority we have given. how would you describe the opportunities to help protect against the threat in line with what we talked about? >> the bill that was passed either last year or the year before that you mentioned was a hopeful bill in terms of the management access to federal land, a couple of things that go along with making sure the rules
that come out are continued funding of those things and the opportunity for public-private partnerships. the agencies have shown a lot more interest working with us since the bill was passed and so we have agreements now with the interior i think we are working on a master agreement w master t have to come in every year so i think all of that is moving in the right direction. >> doctor russell was talking to some of the technologies. can you talk about the practicality cost impact and what it needs to have to trip the kind of technologies to shut off the thrift? >> one of the things we worry about is public affordability is and how do you balance safety, cost, all these things so we are doing small pilots with the technologies we have to figure
out how well they work and do thdothe work in our conditions d if they do, we could deploy those and reduce the other things we are doing like cutting down fewer trees but it's too early for us to know nevada is one of the driest states and the average rainfall is about 8.945 inches. we have wildfires all year long and so the challenge that we have coming and that's why i appreciate this conversation. but we start with doctor inhofe and follow on what he was talking about. this technology we are talking about is a game changer and i
guess my first question to you is how accessible is it into the affordability for the utilities are we in the beginning stages. we've been testing this on a number of utilities for several years. we started at the state legislature of texas after the 2011 wildfire funded project that i headed from 2012 to 2016 we ran a four year project with thwiththe venue to displacing te technology to determine how effective it would be. it was extraordinarily effective. several are rolling this out right now. the largest co-op i think in the united states and central texas is rolling this out on their system. they already have quite a member of the units installed. it works, it's available and it's no longer something that is in a laboratory. it's been available now for several years but was rolled out softly sruled outsoftly so we cw to best roll it into the utility industry. for five to $10 a customer for the typical circuit for about a
three year payout, you can install one box that isn't much bigger than this on the circuit and it takes care of if you have 2,000 customers it's monitoring 2,000 customers. >> thank you. >> i would add to that, senator, in san diego, the instance of falling power lines you need to eat energized about 1.3 seconds typically. san diego gas and electric is working with our nature than are out of washington to test that. it's had early success and they've begun installing it on a small fraction of circuits. some of the highest risk of circuits and i know i went to the wildfire conference in san diego in october and all of the utilities are working together on mapping the risk and identifying the priority is for testing some of these new concepts. obviously you will start with a high risk areas consulates
coming out of the laboratory and the vendors are involved so that indicates a reasonably short pathway once the level of confidence rises. >> is there more we should be doing at the federal level to incentivize this technology? reason i say that is because i'm also interested in, and we talked about this technology being wonderful that we should be looking out to address these fires, and i know there's talk among some of the states about how we adopt incentives for the communitywide space programs and let me give you a perfect example because they are one of the driest states of water use it's very important for us. late 1990s, early 2000, they started incentivizing people rolling up their crass, no longer lawns and used for landscaping. and we did it through incentiv
incentives. should he be looking at a federal level to help incentivize certain programs like that or are there other things that are best practices that we should be aware of? >> two things come to my mind. one is that the public-private partnerships to this committee and others have been very supportive of in terms of helping move technology out and put into practice have been very effective and i think the key is having industry involved in the research and the panels and other things to identify its effectiveness and as a part of the demonstration to get the engagement in the communit and s proven to be very effective. the other thing we are seeing is part of the challenge for the regulators and consumer is figuring out how much it's worth spending in terms of resilience. and we had very good national data in terms of the outage cost to consumers for up to 24 hours. as you go into the longer duration and cost, the information base is done and one
thing i think the committee could examine his or their opportunities to better articulate the consumer cost for the long outages regardless of the source of religious wildfire or other outages and i think that would give regulators and owners and utilities and others better information to help identify how much resilience is worthy of investment and what it would really cost, sort of the trade-offs in terms of the cost to consumers, but that seems to be an opportunity for federal attention in terms of how we strengthen the knowledge. >> thank you. >> thank you madam chair. i can at this from a couple of different perspectives. my undergraduate degree was in particularly forest management and after i got out of school, after i went to law school that was at the university of maine, wasn't it? >> not exactly. after i got out of law school i had a lot of different cases and i defended flayer cases and in a couple of observations i would make from an overall standpoint
that is number one, the utilities do everything they can to try to stop this. transmitting electricity is dangerous and as a result of that, the courts around the country have said that utilities will be held to the highest standard of care there is as far as handling electricity so the utilities take that obviously too hard. but when you have lawyers out there, i there's going to be ful from things you can't possibly imagine. one of the earliest cases we had in idaho a utility was held liable when two hawks got to fighting and got tangled up and fell between two lines and they started a fire and burned up the crop and took -- it's hard to say that was foreseeable that that's whabutthat's what happen. but the number of -- i handle
the case one time where a young child got into a substation and wound up touching two hawks point. they hit the polls all the time, and wind goes through here. they are going to have these kind of things. they do everything they can to stop it. i appreciate the work that's being done, but the fault is determined now they've got it such that it can be detected almost instantly and shut everything down, but almost isn't quite good enough. what you need is something that can foresee the fault which i think it's impossible to foresee the fault. >> actually, in the very earliest stages, this isn't a fire ignition mechanism and it starts to arc and we can detect it. >> that's better and it will continue to get better i'm sure.
but the plaintiffs, there's going to be times when you will get the arcing and fire starts. so you go to the next point and that is when you have that happen, what do you do about that and that is you need forest maintenance, and you need to have the right-of-way cleared out. madam chair, i'm going to ask this be entered into the record of this is a routine operation for the maintenance to reduce fire risk on the utilit utility rights-of-way dated december 12, 2019. and it was signed by the state director in idaho and it's only three pages long. if i can paraphrase daystar indies and give the utilities all the help they can get to get the utilities some help as they are clearing out the right-of-way. one sentence says it all. it determines an operation and
maintenance work is necessary to prevent and suppress wildfire and field offices shouldn't require them to obtain any additional notice to proceed for other forms of prior approval, prior to conducting the work. you don't see this from bureaucrats very often they can see it asay it as quickly and ay as they can, telling everybody what, let them get in there and do this and don't be having them fill out all this paperwork. these are the kind of things that need to be done because when you have electricity being transmitted through an urban area, it's actually easy for the fire department to get. get there and put out a fire but as we've seen in california it didn't get started off in the middle of nowhere and once it gets going it is by the door so it's important that the right-of-way speaking up constantly. i'd like to introduce to the record. it really underscores the two sides of this.
number one, trying to do everything we possibly can buy the utility to stop the fire and then seconandbeen seconded to ge right-of-way cleared up so if a fire doeplayer does start it is. the utilities of course are incentivized and this incentive question was raised its for the fact they do business on a cost to cost basis virtually everywhere they are all regulated by the public utilities commission and so they are incentivized to get out there and do it by the power company in my state they have contracts with people to go out and trim the trees on the right-of-way is and they are at it every single day. it is a constant program. i'm amazed here at washington, d.c. when i see the kind of outages that you get here and not only that, but how long they last and it is premier league because they don't do the work
they need to do and that is critically important to be out there because as the trees grow the branches get blown into the lines and you get a fault and a fire and it's that simple. you need to be out there clearing those lines, so thank you for holding this hearing. i think it's important for everybody to recognize the two parts of this. >> thank you. senator cantwell. >> following up on my colleague from idaho to him by 2018 legislation there was a provision to make it easier i think some of you mentioned this it provides the ability to manage this infrastructure on federal land requires the forest service to get electrical transmission companies access to federal land so they can remove hazardous trees and vegetation. you revert to beat the reviewed these new laws and i'm interested in hearing what we
can do to speed this up so that the protocols are in place and we are moving forward. and if i could hear from you, obviously in the legislation we gave more tools, gps locators, digital mapping, one of the agencies using those and we want to know what we could be doing if we were and the obvious issue of the lab trying to develop this prediction model that i am all for because i think a lot of it is a changing climate in dry conditions but also just ignites the higher propensity for these events to have been comin happem interested in what you think. i think that when it comes to water and fire, neither one of them recognize national boundaries. my colleague and i are having a meeting on the columbia river treaty issues and pushing ahead,
but on the fireside, it's also just as important. we are seeing in the pacific northwest so much impact from canada. so, how can we manage this if we are not in partnership in what they are doing to help us manage it. i don't know what we can do to get clobbered asian on the mapping system that's larger so we see where the risks are coming out so if you can comment on those. thank you, senator. on your last point, that's correct canada has had significant wildfires as welcome as the coordination internationally as well as nationally makes a lot of sense. on implementing the regulations, it was helpful to have the piece of legislation go through. now we really want to make sure that the implementation is coordinated between the two agencies and that it's quick. the regulations that are proposed are very different between the two right now and we've commented on the forest service with some suggestions as
have others on how to make sure it is routine maintenance and are we really going to hit the timelines and implemented efficiently across all the offices. but as the senator noted, good guidance. it's not an actual regulation, it is a memo to the state offices and it's a good start. we want to follow-up with them anfollow up with themand make ss happening he but in both instances the role in overseeing this is very helpful to appreciate the hearing today. >> i will talk a little bit about the biomass and the importance of international cooperation. in 2018, washington state had a phenomenon problem with smoke. one dasmoke. when they basically have 300 fires in oregon, 250 in washington state and 2.5000 in british columbia. and of course it came down by
the columbia basin i have 95 mask in my vehicle that clearly expands the international boundaries. the work that's going on now between the forest service and the department of energy biomass program is using satellite imagery to look ahead and two these cases it is the watershed north of leavenworth and then the watershed central cascades. using to identify the fuel buildup for the biomass and moisture content etc. that are updated on a day ahead or week ahead to begin the position on where do we have extreme brevity in the biomass compared with high fuel buildup that might offend in the form the owners of infrastructure across those areas.
areas. >> that water is a central part and the interesting thing from the grid resilient standpoint is energy storage is north everything south is the river so looking at good flexibility to get that across all hazards at storage capacity from the river is critical and part of that negotiation to ensure to inspect - - expand that border on the river basin.
>> thank you for mentioning that but i want to get that satellite information because i do think that will be helpful for us pick up thank you. >> most people don't know wildfire is a real problem in hawaii. last year 627 fires burning over 32000 acres resulting from hurricanes approaching the island and then burning over 14000 acres on maui alone with conditions that firefighter said they have never seen before the temperatures were hot maximum records were tighter broken 84 times april through october the fire moved quickly that used to be managed sugarcane farmland but has now gone fallow and with ginny grass
hawaii's wildfire threat is increasingly similar to california and for our future also the way california is leading state and integrating renewable resources that my question is how do you think california's move to zero carbon pollution will interact with the need to address wildfire risk quick scan utilities that there is resilient wildfires while using power and mostly renewable sources quick. >> thank you for that i don't think there is any contradiction between carbon free i thank you can do both and i think we need to do both. the climate problems we suffer are causing a lot of these fires. >> hurricanes and the size and
strength is increasing. i don't think they are mutually exclusive but in the short ter term, as we prioritize what we are doing and with fire prevention at the expense of others but this will not get in the way. and what we can learn for your experiences into and that key support to that transition and for example with the national renewable lab has been working to use advanced controls with
the overall power grid so we have heard a lot today but what role can immunity scale local grids play to ensure that communities can maintain power or recover quickly from fires and hurricanes and other hazard hazards. >> thank you for the question. local distributed power supplies as the public safety power shutdown and fuel pumping and other things and for hurricanes and other things part of the research is focused on how do you network with those micro grids i know
that is your case with the military facilities going across military one - - multiple military grids on the blue sky day versus a dark sky when you could route the power. it helps to prioritize public safety during times of outage. >> so with this networking of micro grids going on do you play a role in that quick. >> it is going on in hawaii and a number of other places and alaska has that as well and a number of commercial vendors are demonstrating so that's very active in the demonstration phase and connected to the national security agenda supporting military bases around the country. >> i know we have a hard stop i will submit other questions for the record.
>> just one very quick question focused on what the senator had raised with regard to the cost in my opening statement california has some of the highest electric grid prices in the country so as you look to the expanses that are necessarily involved if you harden the infrastructure and work to mitigate the risk incorporate technologies obviously there is a cost. is there a trade-off that has to go on that in order to provide for the greater resilience you have to pull back on another initiatives of
the agenda cracks you have that incorporating renewable opportunities what does that look like with your portfolio going forward to balance that cost cracks i'm assuming some of this has to be shifted spirit this is a great question and one we wrestle with the prioritization what's most important in the short term and i will tell you the administration in california and the public utility commission have recognized this that we need to prioritize safety first so at the start of a proceeding before the california commission what are the priorities going to be managing safety california energy goals and affordability cracks so we will know how
this ends up we work with safety first we may have to prior tour on --dash prioritize a little. >> just real quick do you think coming out of bankruptcy and reorganizing and the commitment you have to make will that be passed on will you see increases to your consumers quick. >> nothing in the bankruptcy is put to the consumer that will be paid by shareholders there is some cost increases coming to the consumers that were planned before the bankruptcy was declared and actually the consumer will see fewer increases after the bankruptcy they had before. it will be better for consumers with the upgrades of
the system to the benefit of the customers and they will help contribute to that. >> this has been a very interesting conversation and i am glad we were able to not only hear about the very specific situation the tragedy we have seen in california over the past years, but the thinking forward what we can do on a proactive basis and we see some of that innovation through labs and universities. i thank you for that. we do recognize as a committee we have always had a problem with fire.
that's nature but what we have seen with the ever increasing threat and the intensity is the fact you have an interface unlike anything we have seen before where folks are out in parts of the country where they just were not living before and we see threats to property and life and how we accomplish what it is that the consumer expects which is to have power when they want it on their terms but do it for the safety of all and respects the issues regarding the resilience we are dealing with these are serious challenges that you have helped put a little note of optimism with