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Filing provides achievements to date and adjustments to reduce the risk of fire ignitions caused by utility infrastructure
Grid upgrades will lead to reduction and frequency of Public Safety Power Shutoffs
Southern California Edison today filed an annual update to its 2020-22 Wildfire Mitigation Plan with the California Public Utilities Commission. This year’s filing highlights adjustments that demonstrate the iterative and adaptive nature of the three-year plan to reduce the risk of fire ignitions caused by utility infrastructure during extreme weather conditions. Many of the mitigation measures will also lead to the reduction and frequency of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) events, which have caused hardship to many of SCE’s customers.
"The worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is undeniable, and some of our local communities had the added hardship of PSPS due to extreme weather conditions," said Steve Powell, SCE’s executive vice president of Operations. "We share in the urgency in reducing wildfire risk, and our Wildfire Mitigation Plan reflects this. With safety as our number one priority, we will continue to focus on working to protect our communities regardless of what Mother Nature has in store for us."
The company takes seriously the commission’s recent recommendations and customer comments during a public meeting on Jan. 26 related to SCE’s PSPS execution during the 2020 wildfire season. SCE will file a PSPS action plan on Feb. 12 that responds to commission, customer and community concerns.
With another year of PSPS data, SCE will continue to review opportunities to accelerate mitigations for circuits that are frequently subject to PSPS events and evaluate new customer programs and resources.
SCE began implementing wildfire mitigation activities in 2018. This latest update incorporates lessons learned and reflects the continued progress the company has made in its analytical, engineering and process maturity.
This year, SCE looks forward to making significant progress in the following key focus areas:
Refining its high fire risk inspections strategy to include inspections in targeted areas based on emergent conditions, including fire weather conditions such as dry fuels;
Expanding its system hardening activities to include long-span remediation by installing line spacers on long power lines that are prone to conductor-to-conductor contact during windy conditions;
Establishing central data platforms for next-generation data analytics and governance;
Improving fire agencies’ ability to detect and respond to emerging fires using satellite imagery and providing aerial fire suppression resources (e.g., helitankers) to fire agencies to help protect communities in SCE’s service area;
SCE last year estimated it would invest about $3.8 billion to implement the 2020-22 Wildfire Mitigation Plan. The company devoted $1.3 billion last year and is on track to spend an additional $3.5 billion in 2021-2022. Primary drivers of the increase in forecast are expanded inspections and maintenance and data governance as well as a rise in labor costs driven by California’s Senate Bill 247.
SCE continues to invest in community preparedness, such as the company's $2.2 million contribution toward the Orange County Fire Authority’s (OCFA) lease of a Coulson-Unical CH-47 helitanker from October to December last year, a busy period during California’s now year-round wildfire season. SCE will expand its investments in aerial assets this year.
"The helitanker is a force multiplier, especially during wind-driven wildfires, with the ability to drop 3,000 gallons on a single pass, it made a significant difference in last year’s wildfires," said OCFA Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. "We appreciate the vision and generosity of SCE in making this very large helitanker available to help keep the communities we both serve safe."
In December alone, the aircraft saw 20 hours of flight time making 101 water drops totaling 223,438 gallons of water.
Results through 2020 and Targets for 2021
SCE met or exceeded nearly all the goals in its 2020 Wildfire Mitigation Plan.
Replaced more than 960 miles of power lines with insulated ones, known as covered conductor, bringing the total to more than 1,480 miles since 2018. SCE plans to install between 1,000 and 1,400 miles this year;
Upgraded more than 6,090 poles to fire-resistant versions, bringing the total to more than 7,510 poles since 2018. This effort increases the resilience of SCE’s infrastructure to help minimize service disruptions during fires regardless of ignition source;
Installed fast-acting fuses at 3,025 locations last year, bringing the total to more than 12,900 since 2018. SCE plans to install 330 fuses this year;
Installed remote-controlled sectionalizing devices at 49 locations last year, in addition to the thousands already installed in prior years before the wildfire mitigation program began;
Deployed more than 590 weather stations last year, which provide high-resolution and near-real-time information on circuits in high fire risk areas, bringing the total to more than 1,050 weather stations. SCE plans to install 375 weather stations this year;
Inspected more than 199,000 distribution assets and 35,500 transmission assets in high fire risk areas last year. This program now includes the use of aerial inspections in combination with a pilot project featuring automated computer vision, which accelerated the identification of equipment requiring remediation;
Removed more than 12,200 hazard trees (double the number from 2019) that could fall into power lines and lead to a fire ignition;
Actively identified Medical Baseline and Critical Care, or life support, customers to get their current contact information and enroll them in outage notifications. This year, SCE will increase outreach to encourage more eligible customers to enroll in the Medical Baseline program and expand eligibility for the Critical Care Backup Battery program to include all Medical Baseline customers;
Continued community outreach effort to help customers prepare for emergencies, including wildfires and PSPS. SCE conducted virtual meetings for the public in communities that have been highly impacted by PSPS and collaborated with community-based organizations to help reach vulnerable populations. In response to customer feedback, this year’s meetings will include more detailed information on how we make PSPS decisions, as well as expanded customer care programs and rebates. The company remains committed to improving its PSPS processes and customer programs to better serve communities in its high fire risk areas.
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE: EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.
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