Some California residents are being warned about the potential for Public Safety Power Shutoffs over the Thanksgiving holiday due to strong wind gusts mixed with low humidity leading to expected Fire Weather Watches in the region.
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Red Flag Warnings are in effect from 10 am Nov. 24 through 6 pm Nov. 26 for several southern California counties with wind gusts as high as 60 mph expected and humidity as low as 2%, according to US National Weather Service. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have put out warnings for potential PSPS events this week due to the weather conditions, which can fuel wildfires.
"We're monitoring weather conditions that may create the potential for elevated fire risk," Southern California Edison said in a tweet. "Some cities in our service area are under consideration for Public Safety Power Shutoffs."
SCE listed 98,705 customers, 2% of their total customers, are under PSPS consideration in Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, as of 3:30 pm CT Nov. 23.
When there is a high risk for a wildfire, utilities may temporarily shut off power to prevent the electric system from becoming the source of ignition. A public safety power shutoff, or PSPS, is a measure of last resort where electricity is shut off proactively during extreme and dangerous weather conditions when energized electrical lines could be damaged and ignite a fast-moving wildfire.
"All of us at SDG&E are hoping that critical fire weather conditions do not result in having to shut off power over Thanksgiving so that our customers and employees can enjoy the holiday with their loved ones," Kevin Geraghty, SDG&E's chief safety officer and senior vice president, electric operations, said in a Nov. 22 statement warning customers of the potential for PSPS. "Weather conditions change, and we have our team of professionals watching closely."
The National Weather Service issued a Fire Weather Watch from 10 am Nov. 24 through 6 pm Nov. 26 for inland Orange County and from 4 am Nov. 25 through 6 pm Nov. 26 for San Diego County mountains and valleys, according to SDG&E.
Wholesale power prices dipped, with SP15 day-ahead on-peak valued around $48/MWh for Nov. 26 delivery on the Intercontinental Exchange, down about $8.50 from its previous settlement. California Independent System Operator forecast peakload to plunge almost 16% day on day to around 23.30 GW Nov. 25 due to the holiday, then rise 9% to 25.44 GW Nov. 26.
There have been 3,083,507 acres burned by 8,367 fires so far this year, 50% and 266% more than the five-year average, respectively, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. There are currently three active wildfires in the state.
Wildfires have become an increasing concern in the West with the wildfire season starting earlier, lasting longer and bigger fires burning. The 2020 wildfire season set records.
The California Public Utilities Commission, as well as other commissions in the West, had utilities present their wildfire preparations ahead of the summer season to ensure proper planning had occurred.