Southern California Edison outlines plans for wildfire mitigation over next three years

Published on March 30, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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Southern California Edison (SCE) submitted its 2023-25 Wildfire Mitigation Plan to California’s Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety this week.

The plan details the company’s strategy to continue grid hardening with covered conductor, also known as coated wire. It also includes plans to underground more power lines in locations with the highest wildfire risk. The continuation of efforts has helped reduce the probability of wildfires associated with its utility equipment by 75 percent to 80 percent since 2018.

“We plan to further reduce the risk of wildfires and the impact of Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in this three-year phase of the WMP through grid hardening and customer care programs, building on the steady work we have completed over the past few years,” SCE President and CEO Steven Powell said. “We understand the impact our customers in high fire risk areas have faced from the threat of wildfires and the PSPS program that prevents wildfires.”

SCE plans to install more than 2,850 additional miles of covered conductor over the next three years. By the end of 2025, the company expects to have replaced more than 7,200 miles, or about 75 percent of overhead distribution power lines in high fire risk areas, with covered conductor. Also, SCE has identified specific high-risk areas across its service area where the undergrounding of power lines will be prioritized. The company plans to complete about 100 miles of undergrounding by 2025.

“My city has been identified by the State of California as being in a high fire risk area. As such, I appreciate Southern California Edison’s annual wildfire plan and its collaborative efforts toward reducing the threat of wildfires in our community,” City of Thousand Oaks Councilman Robert Engler said. “Grid hardening, vegetation management, and the deployment of resources like the Quick Reaction Force Helitankers are indicative of Edison’s efforts to reduce fire exposure to cities like my own.”

In addition, the 2023-25 plan includes enhanced vegetation management and advanced monitoring and alert systems during weather events. Further, it calls for the continued use of drones and helicopters to inspect more than 250,000 structures each year in high-risk areas to determine the potential need for repair or replacement.

“Our 2023-25 plan builds on the significant progress of our wildfire mitigation program over the past four years — progress that is necessary as we witness the devastating effects of extreme weather,” Jill Anderson, executive vice president of Operations for SCE, said. “Our wildfire mitigation efforts will add resiliency to the electric system as we navigate a changing climate and move toward increased electrification in the economy.”

Finally, SCE will continue to prioritize much of the company’s efforts on vulnerable communities and those areas that have been impacted by PSPS. It is also expanding its partnership with fire agencies in its service area by moving to a year-round Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of aerial firefighting resources. The QRF includes helitankers, reconnaissance aircraft, and equipment to bolster firefighting.