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PG&E Hoping State Approves Plan To Bury Powerlines

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Sacramento, CA — Pacific Gas and Electric and the State of California are at odds over a plan to bury powerlines in many of the state’s high-fire-risk areas.

The company is hoping to bury 2,100 miles of powerlines underground by 2026. As we reported earlier, the Sonora City Council recently sent a letter in favor of the proposal, especially in light of the spike in recent Enhanced Powerline Safety Setting shutoffs, which cut power when objects like falling branches threaten a line.

However, the California Public Utilities Commission (members appointed by the Governor) has not signed off on the plan, out of concerns related to the expected price tag, $5.9-billion, which would be passed along to customers. PG&E rates are already among the highest in the country.

The state has instead proposed that the company put a protective cover over many of its powerlines, which would take less time to implement.

PG&E is opposed because the underground plan would reduce fire risk by 99%, and the protective covering would reduce risk by 62%.

There are also other factors like rising fire insurance costs, and what a reduced fire risk would mean for the marketplace.

PG&E will argue for underground lines at a California Public Utilities Commission meeting on Wednesday. The state regulators will then come back and make a final decision, next month. If the plan to bury 2,100 lines is approved, the company then hopes to expand the underground efforts over the next decade.