Commission’s Reversal on Chino Hills Undergrounding Will Delay Project, Increase Costs

The decision sets a cost cap of $224 million of extra costs to be borne by all SCE customers.

July 11, 2013 | By Paul Klein

Overturning its 2009 decision, the California Public Utilities Commission has ordered Southern California Edison (SCE) to underground a portion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project that runs through the city of Chino Hills, something SCE had opposed since it would delay the project and increase costs.

Completion of the portion of the Tehachapi overhead line in Chino Hills, as originally approved by the commission in 2009, would cost $4 million and could be completed within the project’s schedule. The commission’s decision on Thursday to underground sets a cost cap of $224 million of extra costs to be borne by all customers.

“Once completed, the Tehachapi project will have the capacity to safely deliver enough clean, renewable energy to power approximately three million homes,” said Kit Cole, SCE’s director of local public affairs. “California has one of the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation. The Tehachapi project is critical for facilitating progress toward those goals.”

The commission has ordered SCE to build a single-circuit, underground 500-kilovolt line through Chino Hills, which is based on the flawed assumption that the project can be completed on time. The decision also requires SCE to conduct additional engineering studies on the safety design of the underground line to verify that the cheaper alternative is feasible. The additional time for these studies will further challenge the already aggressive schedule.

Delays such as this reversal and the additional requirements for undergrounding are some of the challenges that face the region as it looks to build the infrastructure needed for a reliable energy future.

Once energized, the Tehachapi project will address constraints on the region’s electric system by providing additional capacity and operational flexibility. The project will also help significantly boost electric reliability for all of SCE’s customers.

SCE, consumer advocates, renewable power generators and other parties who opposed undergrounding have 30 days to file an application for rehearing of the commission’s decision.

Topics: Infrastructure, Customer Service