Oregon PUC Approves Three Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plans, One with Conditions

Posted on April 25, 2022

Oregon Public Utility Commission – 04/25/22 9:42 AM

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved the 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMPs) for PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric (PGE), and Idaho Power and recommended the utilities collaborate with PUC staff to improve the information to be included in their 2023 plans. Idaho Power’s 2022 plan was approved with conditions, requiring a compliance filing to address identified deficiencies in their plan by June 28, 2022. The WMPs are the first to be filed since Senate Bill 762 passed during the 2021 legislative session.

Senate Bill 762 established formal standards for electric utility wildfire mitigation plans, including the information utilities are required to include in their plans. Plans must include identification of high-risk areas within the utility’s service territory and actions to minimize those risks, as well as protocols for implementing public safety power shutoffs. Utilities also need to describe how they determined which risk reduction strategies to pursue. The bill required the three investor-owned utilities to submit their plans to the PUC by the end of 2021 and the PUC to approve them within 180 days after their submission.

PacifiCorp, PGE and Idaho Power all filed their WMPs on December 30, 2021, as required by the bill. PUC staff and an independent evaluator reviewed each plan to ensure they met the statutory requirements established in the bill and to make recommendations to continue evolving the plans to further address future risk.

Both PacifiCorp and PGE’s plans met the requirements, leading to an approval by all three Commissioners of their WMPs and instruction to work with the PUC and interested stakeholders to address recommendations made by the PUC in their 2023 plans. Plans must be updated and filed annually with the PUC no later than December 15, going forward.

Idaho Power’s WMP was also approved, but with conditions by Commissioners. Idaho Power was directed to resubmit their WMP by June 28, 2022 with an explanation of their cost/risk mitigation assumptions and analysis that was completed but not described in their 2022 plan, their strategy to address these gaps in their 2023 plan, additional data relating to specific risk areas in their Oregon service territory, as well as projects to be pursued in Oregon, and the costs associated with those projects. Idaho Power was also instructed to work with the PUC and interested stakeholders to ensure they address recommendations made by the PUC in their 2023 plans due December 15.

“Although some of Oregon’s regulated utilities have been developing wildfire mitigation plans for years and reporting to the PUC informally, this is the first formal filing to the Oregon PUC,” said Megan Decker, PUC Chair. “We recognize the enormous progress Oregon utilities have made and largely approved the plans, but also acknowledge that they need to continue to improve and adapt to meet the needs of communities and keep pace with the changing risks.”

Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 762, Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 directed the PUC to formally evaluate wildfire protection plans and activities of regulated electric utilities to improve safety, reduce risks, and promote electric system resilience.

“The PUC launched the Oregon Wildfire and Electric Collaborative to facilitate conversations between all electric utilities across the state, experts, and government leadership from various agencies to share perspectives and approaches to the changing wildfire risk and its impacts on the utilities, their customers, and the communities they serve,” added Letha Tawney, PUC Commissioner. “That collaboration complements these written plans, enabling rapid peer-to-peer learning across Oregon between planning cycles.”

The 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Plans for PacifiCorp, PGE, and Idaho Power are available online.

The PUC regulates customer rates and services of the state’s investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities, including PGE, Idaho Power, Pacific Power, Avista, Cascade Natural, and NW Natural. The PUC also regulates landline telephone providers and select water companies. The PUC’s mission is to ensure Oregon utility customers have access to safe, reliable, and high quality utility services at just and reasonable rates. For more information about the PUC, visit oregon.gov/puc.

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