Market Overview

Southern California Edison Proposes Grid Safety and Resiliency Program to Address the Growing Risk of Wildfires


Editor's Note: Photographs and b-roll are available here.

As part of its ongoing efforts to protect customers and communities from
the growing risk of wildfires, Southern California Edison proposed
additional wildfire safety measures in a filing today with the
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The proposed $582 million Grid
Safety and Resiliency Program (GS&RP)
aligns with the wildfire
mitigation plans required by Senate Bill 901, one of the wildfire bills
passed by the legislature last month and currently awaiting the
Governor's signature.

"The devastation caused by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires leaves no doubt
that wildfire risk has increased to the point where California needs to
reassess the way we collectively prepare for and prevent wildfires,"
said Phil Herrington, SCE senior vice president of Transmission &
Distribution. "This includes a role for utilities in going beyond
existing state standards and traditional utility practices to
incorporate leading mitigation measures from around the world, selected
based on their effectiveness.

"We are taking a holistic approach and proposing to implement measures
between now and the end of 2020 that will further harden our
infrastructure, bolster our situational awareness capabilities and
enhance our operational practices," Herrington said. "We also will
continue to work with state leaders on policies to reduce the risk of
catastrophic wildfire damages while ensuring equitable distribution of

Initiatives to Further Harden Infrastructure

Insulated Wires: SCE will replace nearly
600 miles of overhead power lines in high fire risk areas with insulated
wire by the end of 2020. This will be the first large-scale deployment
of insulated wire in the U.S. designed to reduce wildfire risk.

While up to 10 percent of wildfire ignitions in California are from
power lines, in SCE's service area more than half of ignitions
associated with distribution lines are caused when objects such as
metallic balloons, tree limbs and palm fronds come into contact with
power lines. While bare, uninsulated wire meets California state
standards and is widely used by utilities across the country, insulated
wires can significantly reduce the potential for ignitions resulting
from contact with foreign objects. In addition, insulated wires provide
the greatest overall value compared to other mitigation measures such as
undergrounding lines.

Where appropriate, fire-resistant composite poles will be used when
poles need to be replaced to support the increased weight and diameter
of the insulated wire.

SCE plans to replace about 3,400 miles of overhead line with insulated
wire between 2021 and 2025; funding for that work would be included in
future General Rate Case requests.

Current Limiting Fuses: SCE is installing
15,700 of these devices, which interrupt current more quickly and avoid
the potential creation of their own heat source during fuse operation
when compared to traditional, industry standard fuses. In addition to
reducing the risk of wildfires, installation of the current limiting
fuses is expected to boost reliability by segmenting circuits to isolate
problems, thereby limiting the number of customers affected by an outage.

Remote-Controlled Automatic Reclosers (RARs):
Under normal conditions, the grid automatically tests any circuit
experiencing a temporary interruption or "fault"; if the fault condition
no longer exists, the circuit is quickly re-energized. During Red Flag
conditions (low humidity and high wind), SCE uses RARs to stop affected
circuits from automatically re-energizing so SCE crews can physically
inspect the lines before they are re-energized. SCE currently has 930
RARs and is installing another 98, in addition to updating the RAR
settings to increase both the speed and sensitivity of the RARs to react
to line faults.

Projects Increasing Situational Awareness

High-Definition Cameras: SCE will deploy up
to 160 high-definition cameras which will enable emergency management
personnel, including fire agencies, to more quickly respond to emerging
and spreading wildfires and save critical time in assessing fire

Weather Stations and Modeling Tools: SCE
will install up to 850 weather stations, beginning with 125 weather
stations in 2018. Data from the weather stations will be used by a new
advanced weather modeling tool that can forecast weather conditions
within a third of a mile. This information can be used to inform
operational decisions and optimize resource allocation during emergency

Enhancing Operational Practices

Vegetation Management: While the CPUC last
year issued aggressive new rules on tree pruning in high fire risk
areas, SCE is proposing to do even more: SCE will inspect all trees
within 200 feet of its electric facilities and remove or prune trees
that could strike the equipment. "These trees are far enough away from
electrical equipment that they are not covered by existing clearance
requirements, but close enough to present a possible threat during high
winds," Herrington said.

Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS): As a
measure of last resort, the company proactively de-energizes portions of
its system under extreme fire conditions to keep customers and
communities safe. The company will implement a number of measures
designed to minimize the inconvenience to customers, including:

  • A new Emergency Outage Notification System to send customized messages
    before, during and after a PSPS.
  • Portable Community Power Trailers so customers can charge their
    personal devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and continue
    to receive outage updates and public safety information while staying
    connected with friends and family.
  • A pilot project deploying drones operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight
    to quickly survey power lines after a PSPS so power can be restored
    more quickly.

Infrared Inspections: SCE is expanding the
use of infrared inspection for overhead distribution lines to help
identify equipment at risk of failure. Visual inspections, while
valuable, cannot identify potential issues inside sealed components or
covered objects that may lead to component failure.

"With both safety and consumer cost in mind, we believe that the
portfolio of projects we are proposing will work together to provide a
comprehensive approach to further minimize the risk of wildfires and
increase the resiliency and reliability of our grid," Herrington said.

If the GS&RP is approved, the average monthly bill for a residential
customer would increase by about $1.20; income-qualified CARE customers
would see an increase of about 81 cents per month. The total costs
include $175 million in Operations & Maintenance expenses and $407
million in capital spending.

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

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