Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is working to lay about 350 miles of power lines underground by the end of 2023 to reduce permanent wildfire risk under its 10,000-mile Undergrounding Program.
Undergrounding crews have completed 100% of heavy construction work by digging 350 miles of trenches and laying 350 miles of conduit till date. The crews pull powerlines through the conduit, install additional electrical-system equipment, de-energize the overhead powerlines and then energize the undergrounded lines post the construction work.
More than 137 miles of the total miles are fully energized as of Oct. 10 and about 20 more miles of undergrounded line on an average will be energized each week through the end of 2023. Customers in Middletown (Lake County), Clayton (Contra Costa County), Pollock Pines (El Dorado County) and Vacaville (Solano County) are receiving their electricity from underground lines.
PG&E plans to put 2,000 miles of underground lines between 2023 and 2026, with the annual mileage increasing to 750 in 2026 from 350 in 2023. The company expects the cost per mile of undergrounding will decrease to $2.8 million in 2026 from $3.3 million in 2023 based on those miles.
The underground electric systems in High Fire Risk Areas (HFRAs) will not only help reduce wildfires caused by equipment, but will also improve reliability and reduce the need for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS). With the undergrounding powerlines potential effects from ignitions can be reduced.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will vote on undergrounding miles by November 2 as part of the General Rate Case Final Decision. The CPUC counterproposals fund about 200 miles over four years, which falls short to keep customers and hometowns safe.
"California has mismanaged our forests for three decades now,” said Shasta County District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom. “PG&E is taking steps to reduce wildfire risk by undergrounding powerlines, and the CPUC is discouraging that plan."