Southern California Edison (SCE) has proposed a $582 million Grid Safety and Resiliency Program to protect its customers and communities from the growing risk of wildfires. In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, SCE outlined additional wildfire safety measures that align with the wildfire mitigation plans required by Senate Bill 901.
“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 and 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."
Herrington says SCE is taking a holistic approach. By proposing to implement measures between now and the end of 2020, it will further harden SCE's infrastructure, bolster our situational awareness capabilities and enhance our operational practices.
“We also will continue to work with state leaders on policies to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire damages while ensuring equitable distribution of costs.”
For example, SCE will install 15,700 current limiting fuses, 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.
The company will also install 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.
In addition, SCE will replace some of its overhead line with insulated wire, install fire-resistant poles, deploy high-definition cameras, install weather stations and zone in on tree inspections.
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. To minimize inconvenience to customers, the company will implement a new emergency outage notification system, allow customers to charge personal devices on mobile trailers and perform a pilot project using drones beyond the line of sight.
“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.
For more information, view a video of SCE's field workers in action or scroll through this photo gallery to learn more about SCE's plans to minimize the impact of future wildfires.