Laguna Beach ranked No. 1 in state for “grid events”, data shows

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Southern California Edison worker removes a tree limb that fell on lines, forcing a power outage near Aster Street and Monterey Drive on Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Laguna Beach had more significant grid events than any community in the state over the last year, according to a novel crowdsourced dataset.

Maryland-based Whisker Labs, creator of the Ting home electrical sensor used in about 100,000 homes nationwide, has offered data to Southern California Edison as a preventative tool to deploy maintainers before a circuit experiences a catastrophic failure. The utility hasn’t officially agreed to take in that information as of press time.

“Southern California Edison has a significantly higher frequency of faults than any other utility company in the state of California,” said Bob Marshall, CEO of Whisker Labs.

Edison finds itself in a bit of a new and unique position with 7,500 homes reporting electrical activity within the company’s service area, Marshall said.

“They’ve never had an independent sensor network know more about their network than they do,” he said.

Whisker Labs defines a significant grid event as an incident where power quality was negatively impacted for numerous homes and the Ting-measured data was outside the industry standard. The WiFi-connected devices send data to an internet cloud where it’s constantly monitored and analyzed.

There are 51 ting sensors active in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel, Marshall said. State Farm is the biggest Ting customers as it offers the devices for free to all of its homeowner policyholders so they can prevent electrical fires.

Since October 2021, the Ting sensor network data reveals an increasing frequency of similar significant grid events in the Laguna Beach area. In April, two power outages impacting over 2,000 customers hit Laguna Beach within a 10-day time frame, riling some residents as well as merchants who lost entire days of business. Maintenance crews attributed these outages to failed cables.

“As far as Whisker Labs, we’re going to review all information made available to us as part of our investigation,” Edison spokesperson David Song said.

Depending on the issue, the California Public Utilities Commission may look into an outage to ensure that rules and regulations were followed, an agency spokesperson said Wednesday.

City management had no comment on what it’s doing to pressure Edison to be more proactive in repairing its utility lines in Laguna Beach, city spokesperson Cassie Walder said.

A utility pole fire on Catalina Street between Anita and Oak streets impacted 2,450 customers on May 20. Photo courtesy of Wyatt Gibbs

Alexi Boubot, owner of Le Macaron French Pastries across from Main Beach, is frustrated that nobody appears to take responsibility for financial damage inflicted by outages. The store’s freezer can keep frozen treats cold for up to eight hours without electricity but after that they have two either be moved by refrigerated truck or tossed in the garbage.

“It’s just a hell of an inconvenience,” Boubot said. “Of course it upsets us because it’s irresponsibility at the end of the day. It seems our block is definitely more impacted by outages than the rest of Laguna Beach.”

Both Boubot and her next-door neighbor, Tight Assets owner Heidi Miller, have filed claims with Edison over their business losses. Both were denied reparations. Business owners also have to eat the cost of hiring an accountant to accurately tally losses, Miller said.
Older residents and people living with disabilities, especially those who need life-saving medical equipment that requires electricity, experience outages as life-threatening events, rather than annoyances.

Glenn Korpi, 88, of Laguna Beach is the caregiver for his wife of 35 years, Regina, who was in at-home hospice with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Wednesday. Large oxygen cylinders hold enough supply for about four hours and after that need to be refilled by an electric-powered oxygen generator. Regina Korpi, 79, uses a nebulizer to inhale a mist every three hours during the day to help her breathe.

They’re fearful that their oxygen supply might run out during an extended power outage.

“It’s scary as hell. There’s a lot of anxiety connected with the power outage because of the oxygen situation here at home,” Korpi said.

The couple also doesn’t open the refrigerator during a power outage to keep their food from spoiling, said Korpi, who is living with Parkinson’s disease. He also pointed out their garage door won’t open during an outage.

“If we can’t open the garage door we can’t drive away in the case of a fire. I try to open the garage door before the fire reaches us and while the power is still working,” Korpi said.

Edison offers a free portable backup battery to power critical medical devices for customers in high fire risk areas. If evacuated, these customers can take the portable temporary power with them.

Marshall encourages customers to put pressure on the utility to take a look at its grid proactively.

“These companies have managed the grid for decades and decades. They manage it to failure,” Marshall said.

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