California utilities are embracing technology to stop fires. Is it enough?

SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, Hearst Communications Inc.

By J.D. Morris

With the start of the next wildfire season getting closer each day, California’s utility sector is racing to upgrade its technological capabilities. The goal: making power lines less likely to cause more disasters.

Utilities are looking to artificial intelligence, expanding the use of fire watching cameras, and improving their ability to monitor for extremely dry and windy weather conditions. They’re also trying to learn from the power companies and experts who are already ahead of the curve — but with climate change, it may not be enough to stem the fiery tide.


Sumeet Singh, the vice president in charge of PG&E’s community wildfire safety program, said on a panel Thursday that further technological advancements are needed as California utilities try to lessen the fire risk caused by their equipment in a changing climate.

Singh said some of that work will require utilities to share more data with each other, a step they have historically been reluctant to take. He said the companies should look to the nuclear power sector, which he held up as a model for assessing risks in its equipment.


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