Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) and parent Edison International (EI) have agreed to pay their share of the $21 billion California wildfire fund created under the state’s Assembly Bill 1054.
EI CEO Pedro Pizarro announced the decision as part of a 2Q2019 earnings conference call last week, noting that the company agreed with Gov. Gavin Newsom that everyone in the state needs to contribute to helping with the onslaught of wildfires.
"There is a piece where shareholders contribute, and where customers contribute, so there is a piece for everybody," Pizarro said. "The expectation is that over a 10-year horizon the state's risk profile for wildfires will improve significantly, although it will never be zero, as all of us on the utility side continue to put in investment in hardening our infrastructure. And it's not just us, it is also things the state is doing in building standards and improving fire suppression measures."
The overall goal is to lessen the risk of a spark igniting a fire and lowering the chances it will result in a massive wildfire, Pizarro said.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) already has said it would support the wildfire fund. Ratepayers for PG&E, SCE and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. are to pay the first $10.5 billion through a 15-year extension of a surcharge dating back to the state's recovery from the 2000-2001 western energy market meltdown.
Pizarro noted that about 27% of SCE's territory is designated as high-risk fire areas. "We recently reduced this down from an estimation of approximately 35%," he said.
Going forward, the key is to harden infrastructure. More than 200 miles of overhead line have been replaced and more advanced technology has been applied, he noted.
"We're making significant headway, but it will take more time,” as well as more money.
EI reported net income of $392 million ($1.20/share) in 2Q2019, compared with $276 million (85 cents) in the year-ago period.