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PG&E Aims to Curb Wildfire Risk by Burying Many Power Lines

  • July 21, 2021

Although utilities across the country have increasingly moved their power lines underground, none have proposed a project on the scale of PGE’s plan.

“We need you to know that we are working night and day to solve this incredible problem,” Patricia K. Poppe, chief executive of PGE Corporation, the utility’s parent.

This year the company is putting 70 miles of lines underground, so increasing the work to 1,000 miles would be a leap. “That’s the moonshot,” Ms. Poppe said on a call with reporters. “It should be a shocking number because it’s a big goal.”

She said that the company had planned to make the announcement in a few months but that it had decided to do so now because of the growing public concern about fire safety.

Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, which represents consumers before the California Public Utilities Commission, said that reducing wildfire risk was a priority but that the utility must develop a plan that would fund the huge project without overburdening ratepayers. The project could cost $40 billion based on about $4 million per mile estimated for underground power line proposals that PGE has submitted to state regulators, Mr. Toney said.

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