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In The News

PG&E Participates in Drought Forum Seeking Solutions

Several hundred representatives from the academic community, federal and state agencies, water utilities, tribes, business, agricultural and environmental groups gathered in Sacramento this week to discuss the impacts of the California drought, and the science and strategies for dealing with it.

The two-day forum was co-organized and co-sponsored by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and California partners, including PG&E. NIDIS was established in 2006, and reauthorized by Congress in March 2014, to promote drought early warning and preparedness; to coordinate, develop, and communicate drought monitoring and forecast data and information; to work with federal, tribal, state, and local partners on assessing impacts; and to assist in managing those impacts and reducing potential losses.

“Our customers and operations are in some of the worst hit areas of the state,” said PG&E's Pat Mullen. “Agriculture is the customer segment that’s most impacted right now.” (Photos by Lynsey Paulo.)

Participants, including Pat Mullen, PG&E’s director of Customer Service and Energy Solutions, talked about current drought conditions and the impacts on water and power utilities, tribal communities, agriculture and natural resources.

Mullen explained to the group how the utility is responding to the drought in three key areas: agricultural customer needs, wildfire prevention and hydroelectric generation.

Responding to Agriculture Needs

 “Our customers and operations are in some of the worst hit areas of the state,” said Mullen. “Agriculture is the customer segment that’s most impacted right now.”

PG&E is taking a number of steps to assist agricultural customers throughout its service area.

“We’re adding new programs and offering additional incentives to customers to help reduce their energy usage, which also helps reduce water use,” Mullen said.

The utility is helping farmers install low-flow irrigation systems and convert sprinklers to drip irrigation, which is more efficient. PG&E is also bringing in additional resources to manage the increase in ground-water pumping interconnection applications, which have soared in the last few months.

“We’re urging our customers to contact us early if they have additional load or pumping needs, so we can accommodate them,” said Mullen.

The utility is also doing more energy audits to help customers use less water and energy, which supports the Governor’s call for water conservation, and helps customers lower their energy bills.

Wildfire Prevention

Mullen also focused on emergency response and wildfire preparedness. CAL FIRE has fought double the number of fires so far this season than usual.

“We file a fire prevention and response plan annually with the California Public Utilities Commission and this year we implemented it earlier than usual due to the increased risk,” said Mullen.

PG&E's Pat Mullen was joined by representatives from academia, federal and state agencies, water utilities, tribes, business, agricultural and and environmental groups at the two-day event.

PG&E is working to reduce the risk of wildfires in its service area by pruning trees and clearing brush from around power lines that could potentially spark a fire.

Under its Electric Vegetation Management Public Safety and Reliability Program, the utility plans to work 14,300 trees this year. As of April, PG&E patrols have identified more than 6,200 trees for fire risk reduction work. Tree work has been completed on more than 2,000 trees so far.

Managing Hydro Resources

Mullen also presented information on PG&E’s efforts to manage its hydroelectric resources, by strategically generating less power during the spring, so that it can save water in reservoirs to ensure continuous flows in streams and for generating power during the summer months when demand for energy is higher.

PG&E is working closely with water agencies, first responders, and regulatory agencies to help address drought impacts including limited water deliveries, increased fire danger and environmental impacts.

Mullen closed his remarks with a few words about how PG&E’s 22,000 employees are helping to conserve water.

“We just instituted a new program, which I’m very excited about, where our employees can sign up to take a pledge to reduce their own water usage,” he said.

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