Amid COVID-19 Emergency Restrictions, Critical Work Continues for Safety of Communities
Across 50,000 square miles, Southern California’s Edison’s service area has about 1.5 million power poles and 750,000 transformers to serve its 5 million customers.
During an average week, the utility performs around 900 planned outages to ensure the safe and resilient operation of its electric grid. While the noncritical outage work has been postponed amid the Stay at Home order from Gov. Newsom in response to the COVID-19 emergency restrictions, outages associated with critical safety and wildfire work are still necessary.
As weeks could turn into months, essential services as identified by the state, including utilities like SCE, are striking a balance between critical work that needs to continue for the safety of its communities and workers with the needs of the many families and kids at home.
“We recognize SCE has to balance decisions about the safety of its infrastructure with the continued uninterrupted flow of power for its customers,” said Pedro Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO. “With more customers now being home, working from home and going to school at home, we know that uninterrupted flow is really important.”
He added, “The work that SCE is deferring doesn't go away because the system is always aging, weathering with storms and other conditions, and so what we don't do today will catch up to us tomorrow.”
While we all hope that our state can flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection in weeks and keep it flat, it may take months. These are some of the things we're doing to help take care of folks who are teleworking and studying from home, while also working to improve safety both now and in the fast-approaching fire season.”Pedro Pizarro, Edison International President and CEO
In addition to postponing noncritical work to a later date, the utility is working to make the outages shorter whenever possible. Sometimes crews can work on power lines while they are still energized, but other times the lines need to be turned off to keep workers and communities safe.
Critical work that is continuing includes work that is an emergency or poses a near-term safety issue, such as repairs to or replacement of a pole after it is hit by a car. It could also be an outage that if not taken care of could pose a much larger, more dangerous outage in the near future. And with wildfire season around the corner, the critical work may involve installing covered conductor to avoid a devastating wildfire and reduce the need for Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
“Cal Fire's 2020 fire season outlook, in spite of all the good weather we've had, currently projects above normal fire conditions this spring across Southern California. So, it's only a matter of time,” said Pizarro. “Every mile of bare wire replaced with covered conductor in a high fire risk area means that much less risk of a catastrophic fire when the peak season begins.”
SCE recently added capacity and now has 27 megawatts of mobile backup generators to help the most critically affected customers during some of these outages.
SCE has also stopped all service disconnections for nonpayment, waived late fees when requested and is working with customers on payment plans.
“While we all hope that our state can flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection in weeks and keep it flat, it may take months,” said Pizarro. “These are some of the things we're doing to help take care of folks who are teleworking and studying from home, while also working to improve safety both now and in the fast-approaching fire season.”
For more information and updates on our response to COVID-19, visit sce.com/covid19.