Southern California Edison Files 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan
Southern California Edison today filed its proposed 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan with the California Public Utilities Commission.
The plan is intended to address and greatly reduce fire ignitions caused by utility infrastructure. It also is intended to further fortify the electric system against the increasing threat of extreme conditions driven by climate change and the impacts of wildfires if they occur. About 35 percent of SCE’s service area is located in high fire risk areas.
The proposal is the first of what will be an annual submission of a Wildfire Mitigation Plan required by Senate Bill 901, which was passed last year and serves as a first step toward addressing rapidly growing wildfire challenges in California.
SCE has long taken substantial steps to reduce the risk of wildfires in its territory, including employing robust design and construction standards, vegetation management activities and operational practices.
The Wildlife Mitigation Plan is part of a larger, ongoing effort and incorporates and builds on the $582 million Grid Safety and Resiliency Program SCE submitted last September to the utilities commission. SCE will seek opportunities to accelerate wildfire mitigation efforts beyond 2019 compliance goals in the plan where possible.
“At SCE, the safety of the public, our customers, our communities and our employees and contractors is always our first priority,” said Phil Herrington, SCE’s senior vice president of Transmission & Distribution. “This is an aggressive plan to protect public safety. We are implementing a variety of additional tools and technologies to advance fire safety even further throughout our system to respond to the ‘new normal’ of year-round wildfire risk.
“We are setting the bar high and putting extraordinary effort into meeting tough goals,” Herrington added. “We are going far beyond traditional good utility practices and incorporating advanced mitigation measures deployed in high fire risk regions around the world.”
The plan takes a broad approach that includes enhanced inspections on all of the company’s overhead power lines in high fire risk areas in the immediate term to identify and remediate potential issues outside of standard inspection cycles. It will further harden infrastructure, bolster situational awareness capabilities, enhance operational practices and harness the power of data and technology.
The plan also includes specific metrics that provide transparency to the public and other stakeholders and will enable the utilities commission to evaluate SCE’s performance.
This year, SCE proposes to remove 7,500 additional hazard trees as part of the Hazard Tree Mitigation Program; replace conductor across 96 circuit miles; install more than 7,800 fuses on unfused lines; install 62 high-definition cameras and 350 micro weather stations in addition to those already existing in its network; and inspect 100 percent of overhead lines in high fire risk areas.
SCE believes that the commission should deem that a utility has acted prudently for cost recovery if it is found to have substantially complied with its plan.
Initiatives to Further Harden Infrastructure
Covered Conductor — SCE already has replaced more than 150 miles of power lines with covered conductor and continues deploying covered conductor in high fire risk areas. Many of the ignitions associated with utilities are caused by objects that contact distribution power lines or conductor-to-conductor contact. Covered conductor has proven to be an effective mitigation measure against these ignition sources.
Current Limiting Fuses — The plan includes the installation of fast-acting current limiting fuses at thousands of locations. These devices will interrupt electric current more quickly and should significantly reduce the risk of ignitions when there is a short circuit on the company’s distribution circuits.
Automatic Reclosers — SCE is updating the protective settings for circuits serving high fire risk areas. It is adding automatic reclosers to remotely isolate portions of circuits when needed. This reduces the number of customers impacted during a pre-emptive power shutoff in high fire risk circumstances.