LADWP official details wildfire mitigation efforts

May 7, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
May 7, 2021

Brian Wilbur, Senior Assistant General Manager, Power Systems, Construction, Maintenance, and Operations, at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, recently provided details on how the utility is taking steps to mitigate the threat of wildfires.

He made his comments while participating in a Wildfire Workshop and Technology Summit held by the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC).

Sam Rozenberg, Senior Director of Security and Resilience at the American Public Power Association (APPA), and Jack Cashin, Director, Policy Analysis and Reliability Standards, at APPA, moderated panels at the summit.

Wilbur noted that Los Angeles has a relatively small amount of High Fire Threat Area within its service territory when compared with other parts of the state (around 14%).

Addressing the topic of preventative maintenance, Wilbur said that LADWP has spent more than $3.9 billion over the last five years in rebuilding aging infrastructure, which has been a key step in mitigating hazards in high fire threat areas.

While noting that technology plays a role for LADWP, Wilbur said the “bang for our buck” remains replacing things like poles, cross arms, conductors, and transformers.

Cashin asked panelists to detail what is on their wish lists when it comes to the key piece for wildfire mitigation today and in the future.

“It’s not about getting the information but what you do with it when you get it,” Wilbur said. “We have all kinds of line sensors, relay equipment, what we’re doing with distribution automation, what we’re doing with our communication system, putting that all together gives us a ton of data, but it’s the analytics portion of that. It’s not only just warehousing the data once you get it but analyzing” it properly and getting your system to work together. “That’s our goal moving forward,” he said.

Wilbur said that “getting our communication system to tie in with SCADA, with our line sensors, with our relays, with all of that – we’re just getting that off the ground to where we’re starting to tie some of our systems together.”

Marty Adams, General Manager of LADWP, also discussed the utility’s wildfire mitigation efforts in a recent episode of APPA’s Public Power Now podcast.

The panel moderated by Rozenberg examined advancements and improvements in preparing for public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). Investor-owned utilities including Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in 2020 implemented public safety power shutoffs in response to elevated wildfire risks.

Along with Rozenberg and Cashin, Corry Marshall, APPA Senior Government Relations Director, moderated a panel on drones that included Dan Herrmann, regional manager for transmission at the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

Dan Beans, Electric Utility Director at California’s Redding Electric Utility, spoke on a community engagement panel, while Scott Corwin, executive director of the Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA), moderated a panel on technologies.

Joy Ditto, President and CEO of APPA, also participated in the summit.

ESCC

The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and the electric power industry on national level response issues such as pandemics. APPA President and CEO Joy Ditto serves on the ESCC Steering Committee. Kevin Wailes, CEO of Lincoln Electric System, is an ESCC co-chair.

Three other public power CEOs also sit on the ESCC directly (Jackie Crowley, Middleborough Gas & Electric Dept.; Gil Quiniones, NYPA; and Mike Hummel, Salt River Project) and another three lead or participate in working groups: (Brian Skelton, Tullahoma – cross sector communications working group; Randy Howard, NCPA – ESCC Wildfire working group Co-Lead; and Corwin, NWPPA – ESCC Wildfire Working Group member).

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