Southern California Edison today filed its proposed 2020-22 Wildfire Mitigation Plan with the California Public Utilities Commission. SCE’s multiyear plan builds on the progress made last year to reduce the risk of fire ignitions caused by utility infrastructure.
“Our wildfire mitigation plan is a comprehensive effort to address the wildfire challenges in high fire risk areas which represent about 27% of the area we serve,” said Phil Herrington, SCE’s senior vice president of Transmission & Distribution. “The women and men of Southern California Edison remain dedicated to keeping our communities safe and making our system stronger against the increasing threat of extreme conditions driven by climate change, which also supports the state’s broader electrification efforts.”
The company’s 2020 plan will advance the maturity of SCE’s wildfire mitigation capabilities in a number of dimensions. In 2020, SCE proposes to:
Install at least 700 circuit miles of covered conductor, reducing ignitions caused by objects that contact distribution power lines or conductor-to-conductor contact.
Install fast-acting fuses at more than 3,000 locations; these fuses help interrupt electric current more quickly and reduce the risk of ignitions.
Continue enhanced inspections, applying advances in the company’s risk model to prioritize and address the inspection findings for the overhead assets across transmission, sub-transmission, distribution and generation facilities in high fire risk areas.
Deploy at least 375 weather stations. By year’s end, the company will have one of the country’s largest, densest networks of weather stations.
Actively identify and trim or remove trees that may pose a risk of falling into power lines.
Advance new technologies. SCE is piloting Distribution Fault Anticipation and Early Fault Detection, a set of complementary predictive technologies that provide advance warning of potential equipment failures and allow for proactive repairs, thus minimizing ignition risks. The company is also piloting “Open Phase” wire-down technology, a novel way of detecting and isolating wire-down incidents that could pose a wildfire risk.
Leverage machine learning and analytics, also known as “big data,” to improve inspections and automated sensing of electric system and equipment conditions. This big data effort will continue to drive improvements in safety and reliability as these capabilities mature and expand.
Engage Access and Functional Needs customers and partner with community-based organizations and community stakeholders to support their resiliency, working with existing philanthropic partners and deploying customer programs for PSPS preparedness, all-hazard awareness and emergency planning.
The company will seek opportunities to accelerate efforts beyond the targets in the plan where possible. SCE plans to invest approximately $3.8 billion to implement the 2020-22 Wildfire Mitigation Plan.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS)
SCE recognizes that PSPS is a disruptive hardship, but it is necessary to protect Californians from catastrophic wildfires. Patrols conducted after PSPS events have found multiple instances of equipment damage and tree branches contacting power lines that could have ignited a fire. As more mitigations are deployed, the company expects to reduce the scope and impact of PSPS, but PSPS will have to remain available as a tool to mitigate wildfire risk during severe weather and high Fire Potential Index events.
The company’s ability to isolate circuit segments and its use of real-time weather data and field conditions before activating PSPS aids in reducing the number of impacted customers. For example, during the unprecedented “extreme red flag warning” issued by the National Weather Service last October, about 2% of the company’s customers were impacted.
To further reduce PSPS impacts this year, the company is rapidly developing circuit-specific plans. For targeted circuits, SCE is applying a multipronged approach that includes:
leveraging existing isolation equipment and/or installing additional sectionalization equipment
targeting grid hardening and remediation measures
providing resiliency solutions such as assistance with battery backup generation
pursuing microgrid opportunities where they are feasible
SCE remains committed to providing timely notification to potentially impacted customers, local governments, public safety agencies and the California State Warning Center before, during and after a de-energization event. SCE will continue to work with local governments and public safety agencies, as well as essential service providers and business customers, to refine the program.
Results through 2019
SCE met or exceeded nearly all the goals in its 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Plan. Since 2018, SCE has:
Installed more than 500 miles of power lines with covered conductor.
Installed fast-acting, current limiting fuses at more than 10,000 locations.
Added more than 50 remote-controlled sectionalizing devices to isolate portions of circuits during potential fire ignitions and reduce the number of customers impacted during a PSPS.
Conducted enhanced inspections in 2019 on 100% of overhead equipment in high fire risk areas, including the use of infrared cameras to inspect equipment and identify potential issues that could lead to ignitions. As required, the company addressed all high-priority safety issues within 24 hours.
Removed thousands of hazard trees that could fall into power lines and lead to a fire ignition.
Deployed 482 micro weather stations and installed 161 high-definition cameras that visually cover nearly all of SCE’s high fire risk areas. Information from the weather stations and camera feeds is publicly available.
Continued a robust community outreach effort to help customers prepare for wildfire-related issues, including PSPS. SCE conducted more than 350 meetings with local government and tribal officials, community organizations and customers. SCE actively identified Medical Baseline and critical care, or life support, customers to get their current contact information and enroll them in outage notifications. SCE also took extra precaution with critical care customers, including home visits.
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.