Electric Utilities, Formed Decades Ago, Struggle to Meet Climate Crisis

Pacific Gas & Electric in California is updating its transmission network to avoid a repetition of 2018's Camp Fire that killed 85 people and forced it into bankruptcy. But PG&E warned that the completion of the work could take a decade. The utility informed regulators in July that it may have been responsible for the Dixie Fire which has already ravaged 200,000 acres north and west of Sacramento.It won't be cheap to adapt. According to ICF International, a consulting company, utilities face a $500 billion shortfall when it comes to securing their systems against climate-related risks.Pacific Gas & Electric asked California regulators for a $5.5 Billion rate increase from 2023-2026 to pay for wildfire protection. This could mean that the average California resident's bill would rise by approximately $430 annually. PG&E recently proposed the idea of burying 10,000 mile of power lines underground. This could add up to $30 billion. The utility is already looking to reduce its global warming emissions by investing in solar power and other measures.Many residents are trying to find ways to keep the lights on even when the utility is out of service.Maureen Kennedy spent the spring researching solar and battery power options for her home in Inverness northwest of San Francisco. This was due to growing anxiety about PG&E's power outages. Ms. Kennedy was without power for a week during October 2019, but PG&E restored it for her, and she was back on the grid for the second week. Last year, fire dangers forced her to evacuate homes in her neighborhood.According to Ms. Kennedy (a retired real-estate broker), your utility is so unpredictable that you need to consider spending $18,000 on solar and battery backup.A spokesperson for PG&E declined to interview executives from the utility.Caroline Winn, chief executive at San Diego Gas & Electric is responsible for many of the wildfire prevention techniques used by other utilities. She has been receiving calls from utility workers in Oregon, as well as from Australia, seeking advice on fire prevention.Ms. Winn is now concerned about another threat from climate changes: sea level rising, which could cause flooding at four utility substations along the coast over the next few decades. Ms. Winn stated that climate is changing rapidly. Its getting worse. This isn't a California problem. This is a global problem.