As fire season is here and the uncertainty of the pandemic continues to unfold, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is launching a program to further enhance safety when the power goes out for customers that depend on life saving medical equipment.
The program is available before, during, and after Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events when PG&E needs to turn off power during severe weather for public safety to prevent wildfires.
PG&E’s Portable Battery Program (PBP) provides no-cost backup portable batteries for eligible, income-qualified customers who live in high fire-threat districts and are enrolled in the Medical Baseline program. Additional eligibility requirements include a reliance on medical equipment that operates on electricity to sustain life. Working in coordination with Community Based Organizations (CBOs), PG&E has identified approximately 10,500 customers who could qualify for this program.
The CBOs are conducting initial outreach to all 10,500 customers to assess their needs with a survey and based on these results, the CBOs determine which customers are eligible to receive batteries. The CBOs then deliver the batteries to the homes of these qualified customers, set up the batteries, and educate customers on how to safely operate and maintain the equipment.
The CBOs comply with all safety and health guidelines, including current COVID-19 federal, state, and local regulations, by wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face coverings and gloves when entering a home, not delivering equipment if they are feeling sick, and sanitizing batteries prior to deliveries.
The PBP is administered by the following five Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) providers: Butte Community Action Agency, Central Coast Energy Services, Community Resource Project, North Coast Energy Services, and Redwood Community Action Agency. Richard Heath & Associates (RHA), a third-party energy program implementer focused on underserved communities, is also administering the program.
The PBP was initially scoped to provide approximately 4,000 batteries for income-qualified Medical Baseline customers in 2020 but has recently expanded to 8,000 batteries. PG&E provided $19 million to fund the 2020 effort.
“The safety of customers is our most important responsibility. We understand power shutoffs impact all customers especially those with medical needs. We are working with local organizations to provide portable batteries to customers who rely on medical equipment to live. We hope these batteries will help reduce fear and keep our customers safe before, during, and after a shutoff,” said Laurie Giammona, PG&E senior vice president and chief customer officer.