Devastating blazes unite utilities to strategize about ways to reduce wildfire risk.
Submitted by Edison International
Energized by Edison
Originally published on September 08, 2023
By Casey Wian
Since California’s devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018, Southern California Edison has been accelerating efforts to reduce wildfire risk driven by increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather conditions. The company continues to share lessons learned and strategies developed to mitigate wildfire risk in high-fire threat areas with other utilities that have recently needed to focus on the threat, including those in the central and eastern United States.
“What happens to other utilities, particularly in the West, can have a big impact on us and our customers,” said Steve Powell, SCE president and CEO. "By sharing our experiences, we help our customers and communities in the long run.”
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 40,000 fires have consumed more than 2 million acres nationally this year. Wildfires are burning in 13 U.S. states; 10 are in the West. In California, wildfire season typically peaks during the fourth quarter of the year.
“While many initially viewed wildfires as a California issue, and then a Western issue, wildfires are a national issue,” said Maria Pope, president and CEO of Portland General Electric, who, along with SCE’s Powell, led a meeting of Western utility CEOs on wildfire issues this week.
An independent third party analysis has determined that SCE has dramatically reduced the probability of its equipment sparking a major wildfire over the past several years, validating the investments the company has made to enhance its infrastructure.
“We've reduced our risk of major fires from SCE's equipment by 85% just since 2018. We’ve made tremendous progress by first better understanding our wildfire risks and working urgently to address them through grid hardening, enhanced vegetation management, inspections, Public Safety Power Shutoffs and a whole lot of other programs,” Powell said. “Our progress was informed by others; we didn’t do it alone."
Powell said SCE has adopted wildfire mitigation strategies and technologies from utilities in Australia and elsewhere.
Now, SCE is sharing its experience installing weather stations, utilizing high-definition cameras, hardening infrastructure, enhancing vegetation management and implementing other strategies, including the use of PSPS as a tool of last resort, which is being recognized for its effectiveness in preventing catastrophic fires.
"You don’t stand up a Public Safety Power Shutoff program overnight, due to the needed coordination with state and other safety partners, as well as the systems and tools that need to be built, including those that assure effective communication with customers,” Powell said. “We went through a difficult process and have improved PSPS every year.”
Later this month, SCE will co-host a webinar for Edison Electric Institute member companies on PSPS best practices, operations and customer engagement.
For more information about SCE’s wildfire mitigation efforts, visit edison.com/wildfiresafety.
Edison International (NYSE:EIX), through its subsidiaries, is a generator and distributor of electric power and an investor in energy services and technologies, including renewable energy. Headquartered in Rosemead, Calif., Edison International is the parent company of Southern California Edison, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities.
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