Pole Position: Infrastructure Improvement Work Takes a Long Look at Utility Poles

SCEs infrastructure upgrades in the coming years include assessing and fixing utility poles in the company’s service territory.

July 15, 2013 | By David Song

It’s as ubiquitous as traffic signals or street signs — the utility pole. They are found along city roads and blend into the urban landscape, making them easy to take for granted. These structures support and help deliver some of today’s most important necessities: the Internet, phone and TV service through telecommunications and acable lines. And it is electricity that helps power the devices and gadgets that make up these modern conveniences. 

Southern California Edison (SCE) routinely inspects, repairs and upgrades almost 1.5 million utility poles and the thousands of electrical components on these distribution structures throughout its service territory. That work will be accelerated in 2014.

Pole inspections and assessments will be performed on every pole in SCE’s system over the next seven years, with a goal of replacing 35,000 poles per year through 2022. This is about four times the usual volume of these inspections.

“It is quite an undertaking, but it’s something we need to do to make sure that we are delivering safe and reliable service to our customers,” said Ken Trainor, director of pole assessment and remediation for SCE. “We’re going to be inspecting approximately 5,000 poles a week.”

SCE isn’t doing it alone. One of the reasons that utility poles need to be assessed now more than ever is the increasing amount of equipment that gets installed by other telecommunications or cable companies. 

“Over the last few decades, more and more devices have been installed on poles with the various advances in technology and the way people now communicate,” said Trainor. “From phone lines to cable TV, to the Internet and now wireless service, some of the poles are carrying a heavier load so assessing, planning and remediating poles that do not meet today’s safety code is crucial.”

To manage these efforts between the utilities, the Joint Pole Organization has been established to coordinate and regulate among the various companies that install equipment on utility poles. The collaborative partnership will be even more crucial with the volume of inspections and the potential for many required pole modifications or enhancements by the various partners.

Over time, every part of SCE’s electric grid infrastructure will need to be replaced. Continual inspection and replacement of every grid component is crucial to maintaining a reliable electric distribution system. And so customers can continue to enjoy the modern conveniences we often take for granted.

Topics: Customer Service, Infrastructure