Credit: Elisa Ferrari
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SCE Proposes Investments to Reduce Wildfire Risk and Strengthen Reliability

If approved, the proposal also keeps SCE on track to achieve the state’s 2030 environmental goals.
Photo Credit: Elisa Ferrari
Video Credit: Ernesto Sanchez, Joseph Foulk and Roberto Lazarte

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Tom Rolinski has been studying wildfires for 24 years and has witnessed firsthand some of the nation’s most devastating wildfires. He joined Southern California Edison this year as the company’s first “Fire Scientist,” and is helping the company acclimate to the “new normal” of more frequent and extreme wildfires.

For evidence of this “new normal,” consider that 10 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in state history have happened since 2015.

“California hasn’t seen conditions this severe for several decades,” Rolinski said, referring to the abundance of dry fuel across the state, combined with the increasing frequency of hot, dry conditions. “All the signs point to these conditions continuing for quite a while.”

SCE and other electric utilities in California are partnering with local and regional fire agencies to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

“SCE’s efforts to reduce wildfire risk are not only helping to make communities throughout Southern California safer, but they also help the safety of first responders,” Rolinski said.

Reducing wildfire risk is a major theme in SCE’s 2021 General Rate Case, which was filed today with the California Public Utilities Commission.

The funding request for 2021-2023 strikes a balance between SCE’s core work of improving the reliability and security of electric service, helping California meet its clean energy goals, and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.For example, funds requested in SCE’s rate case would pay for more than 72,000 fire-resistant power poles installed through 2023, and nearly 6,200 miles of insulated power lines in high fire risk areas during the same period.   

If the commission approves SCE’s full request, the average monthly bill would increase by about $14 in 2021, about $4 in 2022 and about $6 in 2023 for residential customers. The impacts will be less for lower-income customers enrolled in SCE’s Bill Assistance Programs — about $9.50 in 2021, $3 in 2022 and $4 in 2023.

“SCE understands that rate increases are challenging for many of our customers,” said Douglas Snow, director of SCE’s General Rate Case. “We’re continuing to provide bill assistance programs for our low-income customers, and all customers can take advantage of the programs and online tools we offer to help people reduce their energy usage.

“Like other California businesses, SCE is adapting to climate conditions that have led to fire season being year-round,” Snow added. “No one wants California to have any more devastating wildfires, so we are taking action quickly to help reduce that risk.”

To help lessen potential rate impacts, SCE would moderate its pace for planned power grid upgrades, as it directs resources toward urgent wildfire prevention work.

Through the General Rate Case, the commission will review and authorize how much SCE can collect through customer rates in 2021-2023. The process includes customer input and public participation hearings, which will be held in multiple locations across SCE’s 50,000-square-mile service area.