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Author Topic: Summary of NEMCCA's meeting with PGE representatives on March 16, 2023  (Read 787 times)
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« on: March 18, 2023, 09:06:57 AM »

Summary of NEMCCA's meeting with PGE representatives on March 16, 2023 regarding the PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoffs).

 Discussion regarding PSPS areas, and POAs (Preventative Outages Areas):

In the original information that came out it was understood by those living in areas East of Knieriem that they would be losing power during a PSPS, and that those West of the road would be left with power on, there had even been a bit of teasing going on depending on which side of the line you fell.  However, as we learned in September, that due to the anticipated high wind PGE made a few adjustments.  People were without power clear to the Troutdale line, and beyond.
The goal was to expand the area regarding shut off due to the forecast model (and we'll get into that later) but there are limits imposed on how fine tuned the shut-offs can be due to the way the power lines are laid out, and the shut-off switches.  During 2022 PGE has  installed 44 new reclosers (act like shut-off switches) to narrow down the PSPS areas in their service territory,  and more are scheduled to go in this year.

 HOWEVER.... please keep in mind, and be prepared to be shut-off and be without power during any of the wind events we will be experiencing!  There are no areas that will be marked "safe" from a shut-off.  Anytime there are notifications going out that one is expected, be prepared and plan accordingly.

 

Notifications - were there too many, not enough, or just the right amount:

Depends on who you ask.  Were the numerous notifications at the beginning of the event helpful in keeping people aware, or did they create a sense of panic that could be avoided by reducing the number of alerts?  (Or do we as individuals turn off notifications from either PGE or MultCo Emergency Management Services to stop getting double notified?  Do we miss an important alert if we do?  Or do we decide at some point the power is going off and turn off all notifications to reduce the noise?  Questions that we need to answer for ourselves.)

 Were there enough notifications during the actual outages, or could there have been more?  According to the commission rules,  notifications need to be updated once every 24 hours, would we like to see that changed to once every 8 hours, or is 24 adequate?

What about notifications as the event was moved into power restoration?  Did you want more updates, fewer, was it just right?

Feedback has come in praising PGE on their communications, and others have voiced concerns similar to the above.  The fact is, you can't make everyone happy all of the time, and we need to figure out what works for us as individuals.  With time there may be more options for signing up for number of alerts that fit our needs, but right now that is a piece that continues being fine tuned.

 
Forecast Model vs Reality:
 As with all forecasts, there can be a wide difference between what is expected, and what happens.  The meteorologist for PGE used the weather stations that PGE has stationed around their ten HFRZ (High Fire Risk Zones) areas (three weather stations were added last year in the Corbett area, PGE plans for one more going in this during 2023 along the outer Gorge to pick up that data), and they issued a PSPS event in response to that data and the National Weather Service Red Flag Warnings.

 Ultimately the weather was not as severe as expected, but damage was done and 3,955 feet of damage wire cable was repaired, 21 transformers and 11 poles.  Its not possible to know how many lines touched together and didn't spark because there were shut off, or how many branches that hit the lines would have sparked if they had been left on, but with the on-going drought and the long term affects to the trees that need more than one or two rainy season to bounce back. Beetles that eat on the Douglas Fir are now wintering over, trees are dying and this is increasing the possible fuel for fires.  All these factors are being taken into account when looking at a PSPS.

 
What About Reimbursements:
This was outside the representatives area.

There are no known programs for fuel reimbursement, but claims can be filed on PGE's website: https://portlandgeneral.com/help/help-topics/claims-center


What about Wells:
PGE is aware that when power goes down, wells go down.  When wells go down, there isn't a way to fight a fire if it occurs on your property.  One of the PGE representatives has requested information from Corbett Fire regarding well locations to be used as a data point for their risk analysis which informs their wildfire mitigation capital investment decision making.  The more information PGE has on understanding community risks, the more informed decisions can be made on where to spend capital dollars.

Not sure right now what that will look like, since you can't ask for a one, three or 30 million dollar expense without data to show the cost/benefits of the work.

 
What about People with Health Issues:
 PGE has a register of those who need power due to health issues. This is a yearly registration. Additional notifications are sent to those who have medical needs prior to a PSPS, and there are a list of resources available.   

Go to https://portlandgeneral.com/outages-safety/be-prepared/powering-medical equipment  to register.

 A pilot program has been proposed this year to assist those who have medical certifications with battery packs during PSPS. If you're interested, or know someone who might be, please reach out to PGE's Medical Certificate Team at 503-612-3838.

 

How can we get the power on faster:

 Its not as easy to turn the power on as it is to turn it off, because each foot of line has to be inspected for damage.  The possibility of using drones to do inspections is limited by the current regulations that the drones have to be within line of sight and that is not a big help in our area.  The crews who turn the power back on want to do it as fast and efficiently as possible, and are always looking for ways to improve.

 The PSPS maps did not do justice to how many people were turned on as the areas did not flip to powered until the last person in the area was back on.  Effort is being done to show smaller areas as they come on the grid so people can see more accurate data.

 What about putting the power underground:

 Data needs to be provided to the cost is offset by the benefits, depending on the area to underground.  Underground has its benefits, but also has drawbacks.  Looking forward and planning for the Cascadia you would be looking at more damage to wire that is underground.  In some cases it is better to have wire on poles, and they are using more ductile iron poles in areas where that makes more sense.  It needs to be a combination of all options.

 
Personal responsibility, and can PGE do an insert coming into the Summer months:
Some people were caught short on propane since they weren't running heat during the summer and weren't thinking about propane.  Check your tank, make sure you have enough.

Generator safety is dependent on the homeowner.  Take the time to learn about your generator, have them checked by a professional if necessary, go to the website for tips.

https://portlandgeneral.com/outages-safety/be-prepared/backup-generators.

Power can go down for many reasons, and does.  Individuals need to have a plan, know what they need to do to take care of themselves.  Having power is not a guarantee.

 PGE is leading in the area for PSPS events, but expect to see other companies implementing the same measures.  It is expected that fires in the Valley will increase by 600% in the next ten years, and those fires or PSPS events may effect those no where close to them, so be prepared for an alert.

 PGE has a triangulation system now in the Corbett area that can pick up smoke within 30 feet, and our fire department (like many others) have been given access to this system.  This is a great tool for sending resources out to fight a fire, but doesn't prevent one.  Be ready for a shut-down.

 

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