Embracing the Challenge of a Clean Energy Future
There is no time like the present to prepare for an uncertain future.
That’s the message Southern California Edison President and CEO Steve Powell delivered to industry leaders gathered recently at the Electric Power Research Institute Electrification 2022 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“All utilities need to be not just the enabler that makes the grid work and brings it clean energy, we have to be pushing on other industries, on our customers, on policymakers, to make sure that electrification happens,” he said.
Powell expressed confidence that industry has the engineering and technical capabilities to accomplish the clean energy transformation outlined in SCE’s Pathway 2045, a data-driven analysis of the steps California must take to clean the electricity grid and reach carbon neutrality.
“It can be done, and as an industry we’re doing it,” he said, adding that the urgency of the changes required is becoming clearer. “We are in a central, pivotal place with all the components that need to come together to make Pathway 2045 happen. We need to be at the table.”
Among the ways SCE is supporting a clean energy future is through aggressive efforts to harden the grid against the impacts of climate change, an imperative as demand for reliable electricity increases along with electrification of the economy.
“We need to build and maintain a resilient system that can adapt to increasing climate-related risks,” Powell said, noting that SCE is investing about $5 billion annually to maintain, expand and harden its system. Of that, about $1 billion is focused on reducing wildfire risk. For example:
- SCE is accelerating the pace of covered conductor deployment in high fire risk areas and expects to install at least 1,000 additional circuit miles this year.
- By the end of the year, SCE will have hardened about 40% of its overhead distribution infrastructure in high fire risk areas.
- SCE estimates that its mitigation work through last year has reduced the probability of losses from catastrophic wildfire by 65% to 70% compared to pre-2018 levels.
Other needed advancements are well underway, including bringing more battery storage online as early as this summer, to provide more reliability to the power grid, especially during the peak demand hours of 4-9 p.m.
“California experienced generation resource issues in 2020 and 2021 that were wake-up calls and showcased the need for greater reliability as the clean energy transition takes place,” Powell said. “With customers growing even more reliant on electricity, system reliability will become more important ― and an even bigger challenge ― so storage will be a critical component of systemic resilience.”
Also growing is the effort to ensure an equitable clean energy transition, which “will only be successful if it is affordable and equitable for everyone,” Powell said. “If we do not maintain a focus on affordability and equity, the transition could be considerably more difficult for low-income households that spend a disproportionate share of their household income on energy.”
Examples of SCE’s efforts to promote energy affordability include:
- A $4,000 rebate for pre-owned EVs (instead of the standard $1,000) for income-qualified customers.
- Half of the EV chargers installed through the $486 million Charge Ready program will be in underserved communities.
- SCE’s building electrification proposal targets about one-third of the 250,000 electric heat pump installations and at least 40% of electrical upgrades specifically for income-qualified customers and environmental and social justice communities.
For more information on SCE's clean energy progress, visit edison.com/clean-energy.