CalChamber Board Explores Wildfire Challenges for Utilities, Insurers

Pedro Nava, chair of the Little Hoover Commission and a former Assembly member, moderates a panel discussion with representatives from the utilities and insurance industries (both heavily regulated) at the CalChamber Board of Directors meeting on September 6. The subject: the issues being raised by the recurrence of deadly wildfires.
Kevin Sagara, chairman and CEO of San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), describes how the utility has improved infrastructure (such as replacing wood power poles with steel); upgraded technology for monitoring weather, vegetation risk and history of its above-ground power lines (40% of the system); and public notification setup since a 2007 wildfire was deemed to have been caused by SDG&E equipment. The focus of company culture—from lineman to top executives—is “to keep our customers safe,” Sagara says.
CalChamber Board member Tom Conley, senior vice president of State Farm Insurance Companies/president and CEO, State Farm General Insurance Company, explains the practical and regulatory factors at play in determining whether premium pricing is adequate to match the loss risk. A question to consider, he says, is if wildfires are now like Florida hurricanes, are they being appropriately considered in the ratemaking process?