About two months after California’s electric utilities submitted their wildfire mitigation plans to the state Public Utility Commission, the agency issued proposed decisions for the three largest utilities, including Southern California Edison. The two administrative law judges reviewing the documents agreed that the plans complied with the requirements of Senate Bill 901.
Tentative decisions were issued April 29 and final CPUC approval is expected at the May 30 meeting.
The SCE WMP was found to meet all the requirements specified in the law and by CPUC regulations. The judges and the CPUC stressed that SCE will have to provide regular reports on its activities to mitigate wildfires and any other related actions.
The judges did recommend that SCE bring its maps and designation of “High Fire Risk Areas” into greater conformity with the CPUC High Fire-Threat District maps.
Secondly, the decision required SCE to ensure its enhanced inspections and maintenance protect its distribution infrastructure as well as the transmission system.
Also, the proposed decision requested that SCE improve its justification for removing hazardous trees and reduction in system faults, ignitions and down wire events.
SCE’s plan promises more inspections, including enhanced overhead inspections. Two third parties questioned the cost and efficacy of these inspections. The judges also questioned whether these “enhanced” inspections would simply be drive-bys, given the large number of promised inspections.
Consequently, they ordered SCE to provide the CPUC with more information about how the enhanced inspections will be conducted.
To some extent, this issue relates to the judges’ concern about the adequacy of SCE’s metrics and indicators. For example, one of SCE’s performance metrics is “enhanced vegetation management.” This will be measured by the number of trees removed. The 2019 goal is 7,500 trees.
But the third parties argued that outcomes would be a preferred means to measure the success of wildfire mitigation. And the judges agreed, “… metrics are to be used to evaluate whether the plan actually reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Thus it is not enough to measure how many trees are trimmed or miles of conductor replaced. Rather, metrics must measure whether this work had an impact on the utility’s wildfire risk.”
So, SCE was directed to come back with improved metrics that can demonstrate the success of its mitigation efforts.
But the overall plan was tentatively approved with the above conditions.
SCE’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan can be found at www.edison.com/content/dam/eix/documents/investors/wildfires-document-library/20190206-wildfire-mitigation-plan.pdf.