As the number of Public Safety Power Shutoff (“PSPS”) events decline, utilities have increased reliance on fast-trip outages (EPSS) to reduce the risk of wildfires caused by electrical equipment.   

PG&E rolled out its ‘fast trip’ setting in several areas last year, but expanded those settings from 11,500 miles of powerlines to 25,500 miles in 2022.  These safety settings deenergize circuits when an object comes into contact with a powerline or there is an equipment issue.   

While these settings have commendably reduced the number of utility-caused ignitions, they have also repeatedly left many customers without power. 

In 2021, PG&E customers experienced roughly 600 fast trip outages, impacting about 650,000 customers.  In response to these widespread and repeated outages, the CPUC ordered PG&E to report monthly on the number of customers and circuits impacted.   

In their latest report, PG&E disclosed that there have been 1,413 EPSS outages through the end of August impacting over 1.27 million customers, including 27,625 on medical baseline, 19,166 life support, and 6,678 critical customers.  The outages have also impacted 47 hospitals and 948 schools. 

While PG&E notes that most outages only last 4-6 hours, some circuits have much longer system restoration times, with the Hoopa 1101 circuit in Humboldt County seeing an average outage of 13 hours.  Customers experiencing the most outages include those on the following circuits:  

  • Camp Evers 2106 (Santa Cruz County) - 15 outages 

  • Camp Evers 2015 (Santa Cruz County) - 14 outages 

  • Madison 2101 (Yolo County) – 12 outages 

  • McArthur 1101 (Lassen County) – 12 outages 

  • Panorama 1102 (Shasta County) – 12 outages 

  • Silverado 2105 (Napa County) – 12 outages 

  • Silverado 2104 (Napa County) – 11 outages 

  • Apple Hill 2102 (El Dorado County) - 11 outages 

  • Narrows 2105 (Nevada County) – 11 outages 

  • Curtis 1702 (Tuolumne County) -10 outages 

  • Jameson 1101 (Solano County) – 10 outages 

  • Poso Mountain 2101 (Kern County) – 10 outages 

  • San Luis Obispo 1107 (San Luis Obispo County) – 10 outages 

  • Templeton 2113 (San Luis Obispo County) – 10 outages 

Frequent and recurring outages will undercut the state’s decarbonization efforts and the transition to electric vehicles and appliances. 

RCRC and several other local governments and consumer choice aggregators have requested that the CPUC develop rules and procedures for the conduct of utility fast trip outages.  RCRC has also strongly encouraged the CPUC and PG&E to disclose its immediate and short-term plans to reduce the number and frequency of EPSS/fast trip outages.  All Californians deserve safe, affordable, and reliable electricity:  wildfire safety and energy reliability cannot be mutually exclusive. 

For more information, contact RCRC Policy Advocate John Kennedy