$54M per year is spent to bury overhead wires to improve community aesthetics, safety and reliability
NORTH PARK, SAN DIEGO, December 6, 2023 – Today City of San Diego leaders and representatives from SDG&E gathered in North Park to celebrate the removal of overhead power lines in that community.
“The undergrounding in North Park will improve public safety and aesthetics as well as the overall reliability and resilience of our critical utility systems,” said Councilmember Whitburn, San Diego City Council, District 3, “I appreciate the partnership between City staff and SDG&E to make this happen in our community.”
The city and SDG&E are collaborating to bury approximately 15 miles of overhead wire underground citywide each year.
“We are proud to partner with the city to accelerate the undergrounding of our utilities for the benefit of the families and businesses we collectively serve,” SDG&E Director of Design and project Management Erika Schimmel-Guiles said. “We have more work to do and look forward to our continued partnership with the city.”
During the celebration at the corner of Howard Avenue and Illinois Street, attendees watched as one of the last standing poles in the area was safely brought down by an SDG&E crew. While the celebration marked a milestone in North Park, the city and SDG&E continue to make progress in other neighborhoods.
According to the city, approximately $54 million per year is spent each year to convert overhead power and communication lines. Undergrounding of wires helps improve the look of local communities and can also help reduce power outages, as one of the causes of outages is vehicles crashing into electrical equipment. These funds are dedicated exclusively for undergrounding and may not be used by the city for other purposes.
Removing overhead utility lines is no small task. It requires extensive coordination and planning with multiple entities, residents and homeowners. In some cases, a utility pole must be left up to provide other services such as cable/internet, even though power lines may have been removed and placed underground, or vice versa. The primary objective is to safely underground utilities to improve community aesthetics interruption of service for residents and businesses. Other considerations, such as the location of electric substations, water pipes, trees and other street improvements, often need to be addressed before utilities can be placed underground.
Municipal undergrounding initiatives are funded by a variety of sources.
City of San Diego residents pay a surcharge on their SDG&E bill, approved in 2002, to support accelerated undergrounding. Each month, residential customers within the City of San Diego pay on average $5-$8 on their SDG&E bill to support accelerated undergrounding. Those funds are passed on to the City, and the City then reimburses SDG&E for design and construction costs to underground utility lines in accordance with the City’s prioritization schedule, as approved by the San Diego City Council.
SDG&E is committed to supporting undergrounding efforts throughout its service area where feasible. About 60 percent of SDG&E’s distribution system is underground. Some parts of the region, due to topography or other issues, create design challenges which make undergrounding expensive and infeasible.