Wildfires, climate policies start to shift corporate views on risk

(Inside Climate News, 15 Jan 2020) Wildfires are among the most visible examples of how climate change is affecting businesses, sometimes at an unexpected speed and scale.

For Southern California Edison, a U.S. power company with 15 million customers, the risks of climate change are already in its backyard.

Edison's electrical wires sparked two deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018, and the company recently set aside a $4.7 billion reserve fund for possible liabilities related to the fires. 

Now it has embarked on a costly program to upgrade its electrical lines and make its grid less likely to spark fires. 

"We are seeing the early manifestations of climate change in our state," said Chief Executive Pedro Pizarro. "Beginning in 2017 and with the fires in northern California, those were at a scale that no one had ever imagined." 

In response, he said, the company was replacing 6,000 miles of bare electrical wire to reduce fire risk, installing thousands of micro weather stations that monitor wind speeds, and swapping the oil in its transformers with a less flammable alternative. 

For Edison International, the listed company that owns Southern California Edison, the financial impact of the fires has been serious. The company reached a $360 million settlement agreement with the public entities that were damaged by the Thomas and Woolsey fires, and multiple other legal cases will determine damages to other parties. 

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Inside Climate News, 15 Jan 2020: Wildfires, climate policies start to shift corporate views on risk