Pacific Gas and Electric Company will expand inspections of all underground facilities in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, August 22, 2005 (PRNewswire-FirstCall) — Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced plans for additional, expanded inspections of its underground electrical equipment to ensure the safety of its operations.

“We are going to bring in an independent, outside expert to investigate why this transformer equipment failed, and determine what that means for the equipment in the other underground vaults we have in San Francisco, and throughout Northern and Central California,” said Gordon R. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

“We have launched a program to accomplish this quickly but thoroughly, and will share that schedule as soon as it is developed. This investigation is in addition to, and will likely accelerate, the larger effort we already have underway, to upgrade our electric infrastructure throughout the city.”

Along with the investigation into this incident, the utility will undertake other comprehensive efforts in the immediate future. The goal of all these efforts is severalfold:

* Verify the safety and reliability of PG&E’s underground electric equipment.

* Review maintenance practices and revise them if necessary to ensure
continued safe operations.

* Determine what can be done to move as close as possible to eliminating the chance of this occurring in the future.

* Share information with other utilities with similar equipment around the country, to ensure PG&E is following the best practices in the industry, and that the industry benefits from the results of this investigation.

“We will invite the City and County of San Francisco and the California Public Utilities Commission to be involved in this effort,” said Smith.

PG&E maintains underground equipment in approximately 540 vaults in San Francisco.

Based on its initial inspection, PG&E has not yet determined why the transformer piece — called a primary chamber — failed. The primary chamber and transformer have both been removed from the vault, and transported to a service yard in the city. The utility will not disturb the equipment further, until the outside expert is brought in to take part in the investigation.

PG&E crews worked at the vault until 3 a.m. Saturday morning, removing the damaged equipment in the vault, and replacing the cement vault covers. Additional repair work to the vault covers will be necessary, to allow them to be seated flush with the sidewalk.

Throughout this process, PG&E crews allowed other energized equipment to continue operating in the vault, to avoid any power outages for customers in the area.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, an explosion occurred in an underground concrete electrical vault located beneath the sidewalk at Post and Kearny streets, containing four electric transformers and other electrical equipment. The initial investigation shows that part of one of the transformers in the vault failed, causing an explosion inside the vault.

Anyone who believes they suffered a loss as a result of this incident is encouraged to file a claim with PG&E to seek reimbursement for their damages. PG&E will evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis, with a goal of reaching a decision within 30 days. The claim form is available on PG&E’s website at

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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