Old power lines plus climate change mean a growing risk of utilities starting fires

By Julia Simon
National Public Radio
March 12, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States

A power pole “that appeared to be decayed at the base.” That’s what Texas state investigators now say appears to have fallen and caused the largest wildfire in the state’s history. The electric utility – Xcel Energy – said in a statement that “its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire.” The U.S. is brimming with aging power infrastructure. Many of the nation’s power lines were built 60 to 70 years ago, says Rob Gramlich, president of consulting firm Grid Strategies. Many utilities don’t have the technology to know when power lines are overheating or sagging, potentially onto brush or trees, he says. These things spark fires. …Whether utilities dedicate necessary resources to wildfire prevention will not just affect Americans’ safety, but also the affordability of electric bills across the country, Wara says. He notes some utility investors see growing financial risk because of increased wildfires.

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