PG&E curtails plan to bury over 3,500 miles of power lines in effort to reduce wildfires

(UI) — In order to reduce the risk of wildfires in the western United States, California-based electric utility and natural gas supplier PG&E Inc. has scaled back its plans to lay over 3,600 miles of power lines underground through 2026.

As part of a larger capital project to fortify its infrastructure against fires, Oakland-based PG&E is planning to bury 2,275 miles over the next three years, down from a previous goal of 3,600 miles over the same time period, according to company executives in a quarterly earnings presentation to investors.

In a statement to Reuters, PG&E CEO Patricia Poppe said that the reduction is "the result of conversations with our key stakeholders" and the need to demonstrate that the business can advance its undergrounding activities in a cost-effective manner.

The worst wildfire in California history in 2018 and other deadly, widespread fires in recent years were attributed to PG&E's overhead power lines, forcing the company to apply for bankruptcy protection due to billions of dollars in fire-related liabilities.

Beginning in June, PG&E will be tried for manslaughter in connection with fire fatalities.

The utility, which serves around 5.5 million homes and businesses with electricity, eventually intends to bury 10,000 miles of wires.

Later this year, PG&E intends to submit a 10-year plan with further information regarding its burying project.

The business stated that in addition to enhancing its electric system with stronger poles and covered wires, clearing foliage and trees, and implementing automatic power line shut-off measures, it is striving to reduce fire dangers.

So far, it has mitigated more than 90% of wildfire risk, Poppe said.

"That will clarify mileage and unit cost targets," Poppe told Reuters.

This story was originally reported by Reuters.

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