In a sweeping effort to reduce the wildfire risk from electric power lines, Southern California Edison said Monday it wants to spend $582 million for a series of improvements to its grid that likely would mean higher bills for ratepayers.
Edison’s action comes while another huge California utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, faces up to $15 billion in losses from last year’s wine country fires, which destroyed more than 8,000 homes and killed more than 40 people. Residents have blamed downed power lines for the fires, though officials have not completed their investigation of the causes.
Many of California’s most destructive fires have been fueled by powerful winds, which in some cases have caused power lines to snap off and spark blazes. Utility companies are already on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollar in losses, but officials have warned that the losses will grow much steeper if the agencies can’t find ways to reduce the risks.
Edison is asking the state for permission to spend the $582 million on improvements, including strengthening poles and using better technology to determine when winds put the power grid at risk.
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