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PG&E Already Knew That Its Lines Can Spark Wildfire But Didn’t Act On It

The Pacific, Gas and Electric company knew for years that its outdated transmission lines that ran hundreds of miles can cause wildfires. But it reportedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades. The documents received by the Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act said that PG&E’s spend on its electric grid clearly says that they were aware that the parts of its 18,500 miles transmission lives have reached the end of their lives.

In February, the publication suspected that the California Wildfire that killed 85 people was due to the delayed safety measures taken by the company for its high voltage transmission. The documents show that before November’s Wildfire the company knew that it needs to replace 49 of its steel wires that carry electrical wires completely.

The internal presentation said that the average age of the transmission tower is found to be 68 years old while the life expectancy was found to 65 years old. Their oldest steel tower was 108 years old. The company supplies electricity and gas to almost 16 million people in the United States. It was found in the 1900s  to carry hydroelectric power from the Sierra Nevada to the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of its original steel towers and other equipment are still in service.

According to federal filings, the company delayed investing money in old transmission lines while it invested money in substantial upgrades that the company considered as high priority. One of the struggles the company faced was to inspect which transmission lines needed the most attention.

“We have known for a long time that we are dealing with aging and antiquated infrastructure,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the business model was to wait for failure and then respond,” said Gregory Reed, director of the Energy GRID Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection after the wildfire. The bankruptcy filiation was followed after 750 complaints on behalf of at least 5,600 fire victims who allege damages caused by PG&E equipment. While the company said that it will take more than a year to replace all the towers[6,900 in number]


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Simon Hemelryk
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