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PG&E's plan to bury transmission cables is still a long way out

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 710 items added with 344,505 views
  • Aug 27, 2021
  • 424 views

When PG&E announced, in the wake of a report tying the Dixie Fire to a downed transmission line, its plan to bury 10,000 miles of transmission lines across California, the idea was met with some praise. Finally, this beleaguered utility was going to take responsibility and be proactive. 

There has been little news about the plan since the announcement and we shouldn't expect anything new out this effort for a long time. I spoke with PG&E's public information team last week, who said they are gearing up for stakeholder conversations but were unable to give any type of timeline related to the project, only to say that it would take several years before completion. 

If the utility was to complete this project in 10 years, they would need to bury 1,000 miles annually, starting now. At the current pace, PG&E has typically buried about 70 miles per year. We're going to need to see a massive resource investment for this project to be completed even in the next 20 years. In my local county of Monterey, the county's public works department told me they were just finishing off a project to bury less than a mile of cables—a project which began in 2008. The hardest part? Getting easements from property owners. The public works official expects this to be the most challenging aspect of PG&E's project and its effectiveness in getting easements will determine its scope. 

Before we all get excited about this plan, I think it's best to take a wait and see approach. This is going to take a long time. 

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