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Many of the country’s most damaging wildfires, including California’s deadly 2018 Camp and Woolsey Fires, Oregon’s 2020 Santiam Fire, and Colorado’s 2021 Marshall Fire, can be traced back to failure in the electric grid. Electric grids can also be damaged by wildfires in turn. Such an interplay between wildfires and grids, exacerbated by the looming threats of climate change, calls for urgent intervention.
While one of the most effective ways to prevent wildfires and improve grid resilience is to bury power lines underground, doing so largely occurs at the expense of the local community based on the current California’s policy. A recent Stanford study, published in Nature Energy, finds that such a policy makes “undergrounding” of fire-prone power lines occur much more often in wealthy areas, leaving low-income communities doubly vulnerable—they also have older power grids and less capability to purchase backup generators during wildfire-induced outages.
In this webinar, the authors of this new study will revisit the policy context about California’s wildfire mitigation and undergrounding policies, delineate the status quo of wildfire safety across the state, and introduce a potential policy solution based on cost sharing to make power grids more equitably resilient to wildfires. Speakers with expertise in power systems, policy and laws, as well as data science will share their insights about this pressing challenge from different angles. The presentations will pave the way for a broader conversation on the policy shifts needed for reducing wildfire risks, improving infrastructure resilience, and ensuring equity during such transitions.
- Zhecheng Wang, Civil & Environmental Engineering
- Michael Wara, Woods Institute for the Environment
- Ram Rajagopal, Civil & Environmental Engineering
- Liang Min, Bits & Watts Initiative, Precourt Institute for Energy
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