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Reducing Utility Wildfire Risk

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In the Western United States, wildfires ignited by electric infrastructure have caused devastating damage and created billions of dollars in liability, throwing finances into question for utilities such as Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California, and PacifiCorp in Oregon. Wildfires, made more severe by climate change, threaten areas beyond those in the West that have recently experienced catastrophic fires. This increasing exposure to wildfire risk puts utility finances in jeopardy and, in turn, impedes the construction of electric infrastructure needed for a transition to renewable energy. In collaboration with utility and energy sector experts, scholars with Stanford's Climate and Energy Policy Program are developing resources to assess and meet these challenges.

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Wildfire: Assessing and Quantifying Risk Exposure and Mitigation Across Western Utilities

Researchers at Stanford’s Climate and Energy Policy Program analyzed Western investor-owned utilities’ wildfire mitigation plans, highlighting those that are leading the way and identifying steps utilities with exposure to wildfire risk should be taking. The researchers emphasized the importance of creating such plans and sharing them with the public to inform better decision-making by utilities, regulators, and investors.

Utility Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) Development Criteria and Maturity Tiers

FEMA Wildfire Risk by County

Service Territories of Western Investor-Owned Electric Utilities

Wildfire Mitigation Plan Development

Research Team

About the report

This report was produced by the Stanford Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program and the Climate & Energy Policy Program at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. The Woods Institute is part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, which provided funding through its Sustainability Accelerator. Financial support was also provided by the Moore Foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund.

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Expert Insights

See highlights from a conversation about the white paper among Stanford scholars and wildfire and utility experts

Building clean energy infrastructure: Roadblocks, tradeoffs, and solutions

Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM ET

The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability will host an event exploring the roadblocks and tradeoffs that policymakers need to confront in order to create a resilient and clean electricity grid. Even as the federal permitting process has become more efficient, the fragmented governance of the grid has slowed projects and needed investments. Solving those issues is not enough: Utilities must also act to mitigate the increasing risk of wildfires from climate change and the aging grid.

The event will coincide with the release of two new policy proposals focused on the governance of the electricity grid and the intersection of wildfire risk and utilities. The Hamilton Project will also release a facts document highlighting permitting reform.

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