What this means for our customers
While the risk of wildfires is very low in Santa Clara, a public safety power outage could impact customers who receive electric service from Silicon Valley Power due to the interconnected nature of the electric grid.
- What is the program?
It’s called the Public Safety Power Shutoff program, developed in cooperation with state utility regulators at the Public Utilities Commission. A utility shuts off electricity on transmission and distribution lines in fire-prone areas during high fire-risk periods. The program isn’t new, but the practice is about to become more common.
- Which customers are most likely to have their power turned off?
The most likely electric lines to be considered for a public safety power outage will be those that pass through areas that have been designated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) High Fire-Threat District map elevated to (Tier 2) or extreme risk (Tier 3) for wildfire. Customers outside of these areas could have their power shut off, if their community relies upon a line that passes through a high fire-threat area. We strongly recommend all of our customers be prepared for possible public safety power outages.
- How often will these public safety power shutoffs occur?
We anticipate that a Public Safety Power Shutoff could occur several times per year in PG&E’s service area although it is impossible to predict with certainty when, where and how often extreme weather conditions could occur given the rapidly changing environmental conditions.
While customers in high fire-threat areas are more likely to be affected, any customer could have their power shut off if their community relies upon a line that passes through a high fire-threat area. We strongly recommend all of our customers be prepared for this possibility no matter where they live or work.
- Why would power be shut off in a community not experiencing strong winds?
Predictions of strong winds are one of several criteria that PG&E considers when deciding to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff, along with other factors like predictions of very low humidity levels combined with critically dry vegetation and on-the-ground observations.
Although you may not live or work in a high fire-threat area or an area experiencing high winds, your power may be shut off if your community relies upon a line that runs through an area experiencing extreme fire danger conditions.
- How long with my electricity be out if a public safety power shutoff occurs?
Each situation will be different, just like each day's weather. PG&E or SVP will need to visually inspect the impacted power lines for damage and should restore power to most customers within 24 to 48 hours after extreme weather has passed. Because any emergency can last several hours or days, for planning purposes, we suggest customers always prepare for outages that could last longer than 48 hours whether due to extreme weather, earthquake or another event.
Silicon Valley Power operates and maintains the distribution and transmission grid inside the City of Santa Clara, the larger transmission grid that brings most of SVP’s energy into the City is integrated throughout the State of California. This is where Santa Clara could be affected.
If large transmission lines are de-energized or constrained, then SVP may need to reduce load quickly to help the greater transmission grid. Depending on the severity of the event it may mean power shutoffs or rolling outages in the City of Santa Clara.
Regardless of the reason for the outage, every step is being taken to restore power as soon as possible. SVP will be providing status updates on twitter and through eNotify regarding restoration times as they become available. Make sure you are prepared for all emergencies.
- Will outages affect urban residents?
It’s less likely to affect urban areas than rural areas. But PG&E officials have stated they could shut power for urban areas as well, given that major transmission lines that provide urban power travel through fire-prone rural areas.
- I am a Silicon Valley Power customer. Why would PG&E’s actions to shutoff the power potentially cause a power shutdown in Santa Clara?
SVP’s service territory in the City of Santa Clara does not face a high fire risk. SVP has not preemptively shut service because of wildfire threat yet. But some SVP transmission lines do run through high threat fire areas which would limit power availability if these lines needed to be shut down.
- How do I sign up to receive alerts about a power outage?
Sign up to receive messages from SVP’s eNotify system.
Follow Silicon Valley Power Twitter
Sign up for the county’s AlertSCC
- Why should I sign up for AlertSCC?
Signing up for AlertSCC is one of the easiest steps you can take to prepare yourself and your family for an unexpected event. It's free, and it takes only minutes.
AlertSCC can reach you wherever you are to provide information and instructions in a variety of emergency situations, which may include:
- Flooding, wildfires and subsequent evacuations
- Public safety incidents, including crimes that immediately affect your neighborhood
- Post-disaster information about shelters, transportation, or supplies
- If I am a MRAP Rate customer, will my power be shut off?
We know how important reliable electric service is to our customers, especially those using medical equipment. We make every effort to prevent outages but cannot guarantee that they will not occur. In case of emergency, every customer in SVP’s territory could be impacted by rotating outages. Please be prepared and find a location that will have emergency backup power and have a plan to evacuate to that location if necessary. SVP’s goal is to provide as much notice as possible of a public safety power shutoff to minimize the impact on our customers and community. A sudden onset of conditions could impact our ability to provide that notice.
- Will I be compensated for spoiled food or other losses?
Since power will be shut off for public safety due to extreme fire conditions, we will not reimburse customers for losses. If rotating outages occur, power should only be out for two-hour periods of time, but all customers should be prepared for any extended outages and have an emergency plan in place.
More ways to prepare
It is important to prepare an emergency plan in advance in the event your family is affected by a power shutoff – or any other emergency.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Plan for any medical needs like medications that need to be refrigerated or devices that require power.
- Have a personal safety plan in place for every member of your household (including pets).
- Build or restock your emergency supply kit, including food, water, flashlights, a radio, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Learn how to manually open your garage door.
- If you own a backup generator, ensure it is ready to safely operate.
- Read more about what to do during a power outage
Public Safety Power Shutoff Criteria
Each extreme weather event which may require a Public Safety Power Shutoff is unique. While no single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff, some factors include:
- A red flag warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels – generally 20% and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph
What to expect
If a Public Safety Power Shutoff is needed due to extreme weather conditions, you can expect:
- Early Warning Notification –When possible, PG&E will notify Silicon Valley Power 48 hours, 24 hours and just before power lines are turned off.
- Ongoing Updates – Silicon Valley Power will provide ongoing updates through social media, local news outlets and on siliconvalleypower.com. Updates will continue until power is restored.
Be sure to sign up for news alerts and follow SVP on Twitter
- Safety Inspections – After extreme weather has passed, PG&E and SVP will inspect the lines in affected areas before power is safely restored.
- Power Restoration – Power outages could last multiple days depending on the severity of the weather and other factors. It is important that you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan in place.
Working together to protect our communities from wildfires
With the growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires, PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program includes all distribution and transmission electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas. PG&E will only turn off lines in the interest of safety to help reduce the likelihood of an ignition when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted.
Safety is SVP’s number one priority. If extreme condition, such as high risk of fires threaten our system, we may be required to temporarily turn off power to protect public safety. The decisions to turn off power as a last resort, requires a balancing of several factors such as: circumstances of the emergency, wind speed, temperature, humidity and field observations.
Although the risk is low, if we must shut off power when the demand for power is extremely high, rotating outages could occur. Rotating outages would be a last resort and we’ll use every tool at our disposal, including load management, commercial customer curtailment and buying power on the open market before we would consider rotating outages.