As 2019 draws to a close, we are taking a few moments to look back at a year defined by key milestones in clean transportation, wildfire safety, energy reliability, clean energy and community engagement. Together, as a region we are collectively making progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by electrifying our transportation sector, incorporating more renewable energy into our power grid, and reducing wildfire risk.
In 2020 and beyond, the 4,000 plus employees at SDG&E will continue our commitment to improve lives and our community by becoming the cleanest, safest, and most reliable energy company in America.
In 2019, we saw a 50 percent increase in the number of electric vehicles on the road in our region. Today San Diego and southern Orange counties – SDG&E’s service territory – is home to more than 51,000 electric cars, compared to around 34,000 at the beginning of 2019. These vehicles produce zero or low emissions, and play a critical role in helping to meet local and state goals to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.
As the number of EVs continues to grow, our Clean Transportation Team is ramping up efforts to add more EV chargers at schools, beaches, parks, office buildings, and industrial and commercial facilities.
In August, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave SDG&E the greenlight to launch a major EV charging infrastructure program to serve a minimum of 3,000 plug-in medium-duty and heavy-duty (MD/HD) electric vehicles and equipment. A new charging network will be built over five years to support zero-emission transit buses, school buses, delivery trucks, forklifts and refrigerated semi-truck trailers.
This program signifies a new phase in the clean transportation movement. Transportation electrification is now moving beyond passenger vehicles to industrial and commercial vehicles.
Three months after the CPUC’s approval of the medium-duty and heavy-duty EV charging program, SDG&E garnered approval for another program to expand charging infrastructure to schools, parks, and beaches. Under this program, 340 chargers – a mix of Level 2 and DC fast chargers – will be installed at 30 educational institutions and 22 state beaches, and state/county/city parks.
Our region’s transition to a sustainable future went beyond clean transportation in 2019.
As part of a statewide effort, SDG&E was the first investor-owned utility to transition residential customers to Time of Use pricing plans. These plans incentivize customers to use energy when there is an abundance of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, on the grid. As of the end of 2019, nearly 800,000 residential customers in our region have moved to a Time of Use plan, and these customers are helping the region and the state move towards a clean energy future.
2019 was another challenging fire year for California. To keep our communities safe, SDG&E launched and announced multiple initiatives last year to reduce wildfire risk and help our region and local residents get better prepared.
In addition to an Aircrane capable of dropping 2,650 gallons of water, SDG&E leased an additional firefighting aircraft in 2019 to support regional firefighting efforts. The UH-60 Blackhawk can fly up to 140 mph with a tank of water while enroute to a fire. It holds 850 gallons of water and refills in 45 seconds.
Both the Aircrane and the Black Hawk are stationed year-round at Gillespie Field in El Cajon – available for dispatch by CAL FIRE. The Black Hawk was dispatched to nine fires and dropped more than 43,000 gallons of water in 2019. The Aircrane was dispatched to 31 fires and dropped more than 177,000 gallons of water last year. Both aircrafts have played an instrumental role in initial fire attacks, which help prevent small fires from growing into large fires.
Thanks to the hard work and partnership of public safety agencies, we are tremendously grateful that our region did not experience any major fires in 2019.
In 2020, as part of our Fire Safe 3.0 program, we look forward to opening a new Fire Science and Innovation Lab. The lab will bring together leading thinkers and problem solvers in academia, government and the community to create forward-looking solutions to help prevent ignitions, mitigate the impacts of fires, and ultimately help build a more resilient region. With this lab, SDG&E aims to lead the development of the next generation of fire science and wildfire innovation.
For the 14th year in a row, we were honored to be named the most reliable electricity provider in the West. In November, SDG&E received a regional ReliabilityOne™ Award for “Outstanding Reliability Performance” from PA Consulting. To be named the most reliable utility in the Western United States means electricity is available when customers need it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with fewer interruptions than elsewhere in the West.
Giving back to our community is a big part of our company culture. Our company and our employees give back in many ways – through donations to charities, through mentoring programs, and through volunteering for community events.
In 2019, our employees and their families volunteered more than 5,000 hours to make our community a better place to live by participating in events such as Coastal Cleanup Day, tree plantings, and serving meals to families with critically ill children.
Through a partnership with DonorsChoose.com, a crowdfunding platform for educators, SDG&E also provided matching grants for more than 1,000 classroom projects in science, technology, engineering, and math. Those projects collectively touched the lives of 92, 354 students, 628 teachers, and 322 schools.