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More Utilities Plan to Use Blackouts to Prevent Wildfires

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Like other western states, Nevada is facing increasingly severe wildfires.

A Nevada utility that serves nearly 1.3 million customers announced it plans to shut off power in high-risk areas in the state if extreme fire conditions occur. NV Energy joins at least four other utilities in fire-prone western states that are turning to this new strategy to prevent wildfires.

NV Energy said changes in climate that have increased wildfire risk led the utility to implement the new plan, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The energy company said the Public Safety Outage Management plan is intended as a last resort and that weather conditions, vegetation, wind speed, and the location of existing fires will all be factored into the decision to shut off power to an area.

The use of blackouts to mitigate wildfire risk is gaining traction with utility companies. California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, first implemented an outage last October in parts of Northern California after the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning for the region. California’s other major utilities, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, as well as Oregon-based Pacific Power, are also turning to planned outages as a wildfire mitigation strategy.

The move to implement outage plans comes as utilities are facing increased pressure to take preventative action after several wildfires, including the Camp Fire, were linked to downed power lines during windstorms. Kate Wheeling wrote for Pacific Standard about PG&E’s use of outages this fire season and some of the pushback to the strategy:

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