PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2017

Electric Operations

From the soft glow of computer screens in Silicon Valley to the bustling machinery of industry and agriculture in the Central Valley, reliable electricity helps power the California economy, the sixth largest in the world. At PG&E, we take seriously our responsibility to keep the lights on as we continue to enhance and strengthen our infrastructure, including making substantial investments to modernize the energy grid and improve our operations.

Our Approach

With the rapid growth in private solar installations, battery storage systems and consumer mobile applications, we need an energy grid that can adapt and change to handle the demands of our customers. This is what PG&E continues to develop and build—an automated “plug-and-play” platform that allows energy technologies to be interconnected with each other and integrated into the larger grid.

We call this the smart grid, which takes full advantage of new energy technologies as they are introduced, in order to give our customers maximum flexibility, choice and value. This grid also gives PG&E greater visibility into our operations to improve reliability and balance renewable energy with conventional sources.

Modernizing the grid is part of our multiyear strategic plan, which adopts best practices, builds on the progress we’ve made and identifies ways to improve in key areas, including public and workforce safety, compliance, emergency preparedness, reliability, customer satisfaction and efficiency.

As part of our regular operations, we maintain and replace older equipment, upgrading as needed and incorporating new technologies that improve our ability to monitor and restore power.

We also work with local and state agencies to help reduce the risk of wildfires, which, among other impacts, can cause power loss. We’ve stepped up planning and training efforts to make sure that first responders are comfortable dealing with gas and electric issues during incidents and participated in dozens of projects to teach wildfire prevention in local communities. And we’ve invested heavily in new technologies and increased inspections to prevent downed electric wires.

2016 Milestones

Every year, PG&E aims to improve reliability and our ability to more quickly restore power after outages by installing a wide range of advanced communications and control technologies throughout the energy grid. Highlights from 2016 included:

  • Opened third Distribution Control Center. Since 2014, PG&E has opened three state-of-the-art electric distribution control centers—in Fresno, Concord and Rocklin—that manage more than 140,000 miles of electric distribution power lines throughout Northern and Central California. The third of these—in Rocklin (Placer County)—opened in 2016. These facilities are the nerve centers of the grid that deliver energy to the homes and businesses of more than 16 million Californians. The centers have enhanced electric reliability for PG&E customers while incorporating clean, renewable energy into the grid.
  • Launched distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) demonstration projects. In collaboration with leading companies including Tesla, Green Charge and GE Grid Solutions, the projects will demonstrate how DERMS technology—such as solar and battery storage—can enhance the stability and power quality of the grid and optimize power-flow management, especially as more customers adopt solar.
  • Invested in our system. Throughout the year, PG&E completed a number of local projects to upgrade our electric system, enhance reliability and increase capacity. These ranged from installing remote sensing devices on power poles to reduce the frequency and duration of power outages in Los Molinos to improving high-voltage transmission towers in Burlingame.
  • Installed advanced circuit automation technology. This advanced technology, installed on electric distribution circuits, can restore power to the majority of customers within minutes after an outage by rerouting the flow of electricity around a damaged power line, automatically “self-healing” the grid. Since the program began in 2012, these systems have been installed on more than 25 percent of PG&E’s electrical distribution circuits and have helped the company avoid more than 160 million customer outage minutes and prevented more than 1.6 million customers from experiencing a sustained outage.
  • Continued to leverage SmartMeter™ technology. More than 10 million electric and gas SmartMeter™ devices are creating a smarter, more reliable energy grid. The electric meters provide near real-time energy usage data to both PG&E and our customers through digital communications. They also enable us to better detect areas affected by outages, which means we can restore power faster.

Measuring Progress

In 2016, PG&E customers experienced the second-best reliability in PG&E history, with the average customer experiencing just one outage during the year.

The average time a PG&E customer was without power (SAIDI) was 108.9 minutes, representing a 35 percent improvement over the last decade. The average number of power interruptions per customer (SAIFI) was 1.022, or just about one per customer.

Our electric reliability progress since 2010 is detailed in the table below.

Electric Reliability Progress
2010 2016
Average duration of outages per customer in minutes (SAIDI) 157.2 108.9
Average number of outages per customer (SAIFI) 1.207 1.022

PG&E also tracks the number of customers who experience five or more sustained outages (CEMI-5), measured as a percentage of the total customers served, as well as the percentage of time that PG&E personnel are on site within 60 minutes after receiving a 911 call of a potential PG&E electric hazard.

Electric System Progress
2013 2014 2015 2016
Customers experiencing five or more sustained outages (CEMI-5) 1.87% 1.71% 1.35% 2.10%
Electric Emergency Response (percentage within 60 minutes) 92.2% 94.1% 97.1% 98.3%

Looking Ahead

Our overarching focus is safety for our communities, customers and employees; optimizing technology to achieve greater reliability; working to ensure that our electric service remains affordable for customers; and supporting a flexible resource portfolio to deliver even more clean energy. In 2017, we plan to:

  • Continue energy grid reliability projects, replace more than 70 miles of overhead power lines and perform infrared inspections on 12,500 circuit miles of power lines,
  • Further enhance our corporate emergency response plan with additional basecamp agreements and implement technologies that will support a major emergency event,
  • Improve our service planning process to meet customer commitments,
  • Make continued investments into battery storage, including PG&E’s first lithium-ion battery project installed at a substation to reduce peak demand during hot summer days,
  • Pilot new technologies to modernize the energy grid, and
  • Execute our Electric Tower Maintenance Program, one part of PG&E’s effort to create safer and more environmentally responsible infrastructure.