Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is now experimenting, it’s reported, with new technology that might help prevent future electricity shutoffs and equipment failure-related wildfires.

If we understand correctly, it’s been tested elsewhere and has the potential of making a big difference. Too bad, then, that our privately-held utility company couldn’t have checked into adapting the new technology sometime before becoming liable for billions in fire damages, responsible for deaths, and before going into bankruptcy (not to mention all those power shutoffs).

The new technology, distribution fault anticipation, “uses a predictive algorithm to assess electric systems and identify potential equipment failures,” according to a news story from a few days back. 

It is likened to the computer system of a modern automobile that runs analytics and tells you whenever anything is wrong or will be needing maintenance.

One of the developers likened the present electric grid technology to a 1950s model car. You basically have to wait for something to break to go and fix it (at least if you don’t invest in other sorts of monitoring, or run the robust preventative maintenance programs that could prevent problems...). 

The new system “gives you real-time situational awareness of the circuit. It allows you to know when things start to degrade, rather than wait until they fail, which can be weeks.”

The idea has been around for a couple decades and testing has been happening. PGE started testing earlier this year.

This all sounds good. We’re just wondering why this sort of thing couldn’t have been taken to the top of the agenda sooner.

Clearly, the utility has to come up with an array of actions to make their system safe and to avoid the safety shutoffs that plagued users in some parts of the state. Unfortunately, for every innovation they come up with, we’re going to wonder why they hadn’t already done it.

Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal–Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.

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