Pacific Gas and Electric Co. recently announced that it has successfully completed the construction and energization of the most underground powerlines in its history, a key milestone in preventing wildfires and protecting customers.
As of Oct. 30, 197 miles of powerlines have been undergrounded and energized so far in 2023. That tops 180 miles of undergrounded lines in 2022 and 73 miles in 2021, the year that PG&E’s 10,000-mile Undergrounding Program was launched. The end-of-the-year target for 2023 is 350 miles.
“Undergrounding essentially eliminates nearly 98 percent of the risk of wildfire ignition from electrical equipment for about $3.40 per month per customer from 2023 to 2026,” said Paul Moreno, PG&E marketing and communications principal.
Last month, the utility reported that 350 miles of digging trenches and installing conduit had been completed. (Conduit is the piping that securely holds the electric lines in place when underground.) After that time- and labor-intensive civil construction work is completed, electric crews arrive to pull powerlines through the conduit, make the necessary electrical connections, de-energize the overhead lines, and then energize the underground lines. Final steps include removing the overhead lines and poles in some cases and then completing paving and other work to leave the location in as good or better condition than it was before the construction.
On average, about 20 more miles of undergrounded line will be energized each week through the end of the year. “For those who questioned PG&E’s capability to scale up our Undergrounding Program, our answer is simple — look at the results,” said Peter Kenny, PG&E’s senior vice president of Major Infrastructure Delivery, which includes undergrounding. “By the end of this year, we’ll have safely installed over 600 miles of powerlines underground since the program launched in 2021. This demonstrates we can successfully perform this important work while doing it at a lower cost year over year.”
“Undergrounding is cheaper for customers in the long run,” said Moreno. “Investing in undergrounding in the highest fire-risk areas benefits all PG&E customers in a number of ways — from improved air and water quality resulting from fewer fires; protection of wildlands; and, over the long run, improved access to homeowners’ insurance coverage at lower premiums.” Expanding PG&E’s electric system underground in high fire risk areas will not only help reduce wildfires caused by utility equipment, but also will improve reliability and reduce the need for safety-related power outages, he said. Undergrounding reduces the need for tree work and overhead powerline maintenance, resulting in customer savings.
To learn more, visit www.pge.com/undergrounding. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of PG&E Corp., is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com.
Information submitted by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.