What PG&E discovered while inspecting local energy lines for safety

PG&E Repairing lines
Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

In Sonoma County, PG&E identified 49 unsafe issues with its energy lines and other electrical machinery and finished the repair process on all but one problem area.

The safety deficiencies — including burned or rotted energy poles, damaged conductors, and overgrown vegetation — were recognized in a system-wide inspection that began in December, with unprecedented scope for the biggest utility of the state.

PG&E has identified 1,200 safety issues across its land involving almost 700,000 energy distribution poles, nearly 50,000 transmission structures, and 222 substations, more than 5,500 miles of transmission line and 25,200 miles of distribution line.

Bill Johnson, who was appointed CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in April, said in a statement the number of safety problems detected through systemwide inspection was “unacceptable.”

“The safety of our customers and communities must be the driving factor in our approach to maintaining our electric system,” he said.

In Sonoma County, 40 of those troubling results were on periodic energy lines, two were on high-voltage transmission systems, and seven were at substations, according to an embattled utility report. Fourteen of the issues were in local towns, six in Santa Rosa, and the remainder were in rural areas.

Johnson, the former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a powerful agency with 10 million customers, the top job along with 10 new board members as part of a management shakeup PG&E promised in January.

PG&E delivers power to 5.4 million customers in a 72,000-square-mile area across Northern and Central California.

The utility filed for bankruptcy protection in January while facing an estimated $30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities associated with its equipment. PG&E is also faced with pressure from government legislators and others who question the commitment of the utility to safety.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the utility admitted in company documents that it has failed to upgrade aging equipment, including some towers in Marin County that have been in place since 1921.

During its system inspection, PG&E said it had repaired or made safe all of the nearly 100 high-priority problems on power transmission structures and another 100 at substations as of May 31. Of the remaining 1,000 unsafe issues on distribution poles, which carry electricity to homes and businesses, 97% have been repaired or made safe.

Repair priorities are based on the “potential safety impact” of the identified conditions, PG&E said.

Sonoma County had 49 top-priority issues requiring “instant action,” with an extra 444 lower-priority issues to be resolved within three months of the recognized date.

Almost half (48%) of the reduced priority repairs were performed, although PG&E said repairs were not deemed final until all documents were processed.

Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman, said repair crews were working daily on repairs in Sonoma County.

In Santa Rosa, four of the high-priority jobs were repairs to power line conductors and two involved clearing vegetation from power lines. Low-priority repairs included replacement of 41 poles that were rotten, burned or broken.

In Sebastopol, eleven poles were replaced, two of them destroyed by woodpeckers. Sebastopol also had three repairs of high priority to clear vegetation from energy lines.

A detailed account of PG&E’s unsafe electrical problems and the status of repair work listed by counties and cities is available at pge.com/wildfireinspections.

Resource provided by sonomanews.com

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