San Diego fires 2007
The San Diego skyline at sunrise against a backdrop of thick smoke, Oct. 23, 2007. Photo: Kat Miner/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0

As part of a commitment to reduce the impact of infrastructure costs on electric rates, San Diego Gas & Electric has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking up to $100 million in federal funds through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Grant program.

This is part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and if awarded, the grant would help offset the costs of wildfire hardening efforts on and around federally recognized tribal nations’ land within SDG&E’s service territory.

Pending final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, the federal funds would be matched with an additional $100 million from SDG&E.

“Our region has the most federally recognized tribes of any county in the nation, and all are located in areas facing the highest risk for wildfire. These funds would help us continue to work with tribes to provide safe and resilient energy in the face of a changing climate,” said Caroline Winn, CEO of SDG&E.

“If approved, this grant would not only help advance wildfire safety initiatives planned on Tribal lands which have experienced wildfires and public safety power shutoffs in the past, but also plays a key role in in our strategy to reduce energy costs for customers.”

The grant would help SDG&E leverage a good portion of its existing and planned fire hardening efforts over the next three years across the majority of tribal nations the company serves.

The funding would further the company’s efforts to strengthen its energy infrastructure and create communities that are safer, stronger and healthier by hardening approximately 70 miles of SDG&E’s electric grid. This includes undergrounding approximately 64 miles of power line and covering 6 miles of line with covered conductor, benefiting up to 10 of the region’s Tribal communities.

Seeking state and federal funds to pay for climate adaptation measures is SDG&E’s four-part strategy to lessen the financial burden and improve affordability for customers which also includes:

  • Pursuing additional federal funds available by maximizing federal tax credits for battery storage and microgrid facilities that can be refunded to customers
  • Advocating for legislation (AB 982) to remove costs from electric rates that could reduce monthly bills up to 7% and legislation to spread the cost of wildfire safety improvements over a longer period of time to reduce rate impacts
  • Modernizing the way electricity is priced
  • Stabilizing natural gas bills by advocating for improved utilization of existing infrastructure

SDG&E submitted its application this week and anticipates receiving outcome notification from the DOE this summer. Prior to acceptance of any grant that is awarded, SDG&E will also need to receive CPUC approval. Then construction would take place between 2024 and 2026. If the grant application is denied, the company still plans to move forward with the fire hardening projects pending approval from the CPUC.