Southern California Edison estimates that it has reduced the probability of losses from catastrophic wildfires associated with SCE’s infrastructure by 65% to 70% compared to pre-2018 levels. The ongoing deployment of covered conductor and other grid hardening measures, enhanced inspections, expanded vegetation management and more targeted use of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) allowed the company to achieve this significant reduction in wildfire risk. SCE expects to further reduce risk and decrease the need for PSPS with continued grid hardening investments.
SCE reached a milestone with the replacement of more than 3500 miles of bare wire with covered conductor in areas that face high risk of wildfire. A key benefit of covered conductor is the relatively faster speed at which it can be installed to achieve immediate wildfire risk reduction. The expeditious work has enabled the company to reach this milestone in just over 3 1/2 years since it began installations in late 2018. About 40% of SCE’s overhead distribution power lines in high fire risk areas, or 4000 of about 10,000 miles, are slated to be covered by the end of the year.
“We continue to prioritize the use of covered conductor and plan to maintain deployment in 2023 and 2024,” said Steve Powell, president and CEO of SCE. “Covered conductor is a critical tool to quickly mitigate the threat of wildfires that could be caused by debris blowing into power lines. Safety is our number one priority and covered conductor helps keep our communities safe.”
SCE’s grid hardening work is easing the burden on customers impacted by PSPS. The company plans to complete expedited grid hardening work on over 50 additional circuits this year, including installing more than 150 miles of covered conductor, along with more sectionalizing devices and weather stations. On these 50 circuits, the company expects an incremental 60% reduction in PSPS outage time compared to the last two years, assuming the same weather and fuel conditions.
"We know covered conductor does what it is designed to do,” Powell said. “For example, during significant wind events in November 2021, SCE crews discovered tree branches that had fallen on energized power lines that had been replaced with covered conductor. Our customers on that segment of the circuit did not experience a power outage and, most importantly, a potential wildfire was avoided.”
As part of its refined Integrated Grid Hardening Strategy, and consistent with the company’s 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Plan Update, SCE plans to install even more covered conductor. By the end of 2024, SCE plans to have completed approximately 6,500 miles of covered conductor, or about two-thirds of its overhead distribution miles in high fire risk areas.
“Our lineworkers understand that a reliable and resilient electric system benefits everyone given the ongoing threat of wildfires. They always keep safety top of mind as they complete this work, in the communities where many of them also live,” said Colin Lavin, business manager and financial secretary for IBEW Local 47.
“Our crews have continued to work hard to make our communities safer, even during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic while also improving resilience against heat waves and other weather events,” said Powell. “They have done an extraordinary job and remain committed to getting this critical work done expeditiously and understand how important it is for our customers to have safe and reliable electricity.”
Visit Edison.com/wildfire-safety for more information regarding SCE’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan.
Additional information about risks and uncertainties is contained in SCE’s 2021 Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the “Risk Factors” section.