A drive along the streets of Southern California will reveal power poles and distribution towers dating back 50 to 60 years to just after World War II and just before an exploding population in the region needed housing, roads and, of course, electricity.

A few housing booms later, with now-ubiquitous air conditioning and a surge in electronic appliances and gadgets — and it’s clearly time for an upgrade. 

With the recent decision by the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison (SCE) has approval to make major infrastructure improvements. Over the next two years, SCE will be investing $1 billion to strengthen its system-wide distribution grid in areas such as Whittier, Redlands, Compton and Visalia.

“SCE recognizes its responsibility to maintain service reliability and to expand and improve its local distribution grid that serves its customers,” said Marvin Jackmon, SCE Local Public Affairs region manager, noting that there are 14 million people across its 50,000-square-mile service territory.

One of the completed improvement projects is in Rancho Palos Verdes. The city's rough and hilly terrain provides a picturesque view overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but it also makes the maintenance of an electric grid challenging. For decades, SCE has maintained the local grid with spot fixes that safely kept the lights on, but those small projects couldn’t adequately deal with long-term growth and stability.

In the 2012 General Rate Case — a three-year process regulated by the utilities commission to perform an exhaustive examination of a utility’s operations and costs — SCE filed for major infrastructure improvement projects in its service territory. The commission approved the upgrades for about 300 cities in SCE’s territory, including Rancho Palos Verdes.

The first of the Rancho Palos Verdes projects began in March and ended in early June, on time and on budget. The initial project cost about $2.2 million to upgrade a distribution circuit that serves parts of the city. The project replaced about 150 poles, 57 transformers and 2.75 miles of overhead power lines to improve reliability.

“Installation of this new distribution equipment will help minimize the likelihood of unanticipated and extended outages in Rancho Palos Verdes,” said Jackmon. “During the project, residents were very understanding of the intermittent planned power outages, street closures and traffic delays.”                     

Visit the SCE website (www.SCE.com) for more information about infrastructure upgrades.