Undergrounding Electric Lines and Equipment
The California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) Rule 20 sets policies and procedures for the conversion of overhead power lines and other equipment to underground facilities, a process called "undergrounding." We support undergrounding because it provides substantial aesthetic benefits to local communities.
Under Rule 20, undergrounding projects are financed by utility rate money, combined rate funds and local tax proceeds, or private funds, depending on whether Rule 20A, Rule 20B or Rule 20C provisions apply. View Rule 20 tariff, as approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Rule 20A projects are paid for by all SCE customers and ratepayers, not just those who live in locations where facilities will be undergrounded. City and county governments choose these projects, using a process that includes public participation.
To qualify for full funding through utility rate proceeds, projects must produce a benefit to the general public, not just customers in the affected area, by satisfying one or more of these criteria:
- Such undergrounding will avoid or eliminate an unusually heavy concentration of overhead electric facilities;
- The street or road or right-of-way is extensively used by the general public and carries a heavy volume of pedestrian or vehicular traffic;
- The street or road or right-of-way adjoins or passes through a civic area or public recreation area or an area of significant scenic, cultural, and/or historic interest to the general public;
- The street of road or right-of-way is considered an arterial street or major collector road, as defined by the California Department of Transportation’s California Road System functional classification system; or
- Wheelchair access is limited or impeded by existing above-ground electric and/or telecommunications infrastructure including pad-mounted facilities on sidewalks or in other areas in the pedestrian right-of-way that is otherwise not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
SCE allocates rate funds to communities for undergrounding using formulas provided in the Rule 20 tariff. Allocated funds are determined by the ratio of customers served by overhead facilities to the total number of customers in the community, and the fraction that customers in the community represent of all SCE customers.
CPUC’s Decision (D.)21-06-013, issued on June 3, 2021, in the Rule 20 Order Instituting Rule Making (OIR), required SCE to discontinue allocating new Rule 20A work credits after December 31, 2022. SCE’s last allocation of work credits will, therefore, be a 2022 allocation added to city and county balances in January of 2022. After SCE’s last annual allocation of work credits, cities, and counties will continue to be able to complete Rule 20A projects within their available work credit balances.
If an area is not eligible for Rule 20A or if the local government cannot or chooses not to rely on the Rule 20A allocation process, Rule 20B allows rate funds to subsidize an undergrounding project.
The undergrounding is paid for by the applicant with a credit or subsidy for the cost of a new equivalent overhead system and the removal of the existing overhead system. The credit will vary, but is usually in the range of 20-25%
A Rule 20B can be performed provided the overhead facilities to be undergrounded are a minimum distance of one block or 600 feet, whichever is less
Rule 20C enables individual property owners to pay for undergrounding electric lines and equipment if neither Rule 20A nor 20B applies.
Rule 20C does not have a minimum distance or need to meet any other qualifying criteria as with Rule 20A or Rule 20B. The applicant pays for the full cost of undergrounding. Credit is provided for the estimated salvage value of the removed electrical facilities.
At a local government's request, SCE will meet with government officials and residents to provide status on any Rule 20 project that has been approved.
- SCE will meet with local officials every 30 days, if the local government requests it, to discuss Rule 20 project construction.
- See Southern California Edison’s Electric Rule 20 Guidebook for full details of how Rule 20 works.
- A local government can contact their SCE region manager or send inquiries to the Rule 20 Project Management inbox at Rule20ProjectManagement@sce.com. A second phase of Rule 20 changes is currently under study. Topics include competitive bidding, incentive mechanisms, establishing a point after which no more overhead facilities will be constructed, and cost recovery for telecommunications undergrounding projects.