Converting electric overhead lines to underground

PG&E converts many miles of overhead electric facilities to underground annually. This work is completed by following the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rule 20 guideline that is an electric distribution tariff.

Rule 20 has three sections (A, B and C). The use of a particular Rule 20 section is determined by the type of area to be undergrounded and who pays for the work.

Understanding Rule 20A

A Rule 20A project is initiated by a city or county and typically occurs in areas of a community that are used by the public. Customer electric rates fund the projects after construction completion. To view current 20A projects in the queue, download Rule 20A - Projects in the Queue (PDF, 74 KB).

A city, county or municipal agency determines the potential project location and the boundary is discussed with PG&E and other utilities. The governing body of a city or county must determine, in consultation with PG&E and after holding public hearings on the subject, that undergrounding is in the general public interest for one or more of the following qualifying reasons:

  • Such undergrounding will avoid or eliminate an unusually heavy concentration of overhead electric facilities 
  • The street, road or right-of-way is extensively used by the General Public and carries a heavy volume of pedestrian or vehicle traffic 
  • The street, road or right-of-way adjoins or passes through a civic area, public recreation area or an area of unusual scenic interest to the public 
  • The street, road or right-of-way is considered an arterial street or major collector as defined in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research General Plan Guidelines 

Understanding Rule 20B

Rule 20B projects are typically in conjunction with larger developments and the majority of costs paid by the developer or applicant.

Undergrounding within Rule 20B is done when the area does not fit the Rule 20A criteria, but involves both sides of the street for at least 600 feet. Under Rule 20B, the applicant is responsible for the installation of the conduit, substructures and boxes. The applicant pays for the installation cost of the underground electric system, less a credit for an equivalent overhead system, plus the taxes, if applicable.

Understanding Rule 20C

Rule 20C projects are usually small projects that involve one or more property owners. The costs are almost entirely borne by the applicants.

Undergrounding within the provisions of Rule 20C occurs when neither Rule 20A nor Rule 20B applies. Under Rule 20C, the applicant pays the entire cost of the electric undergrounding, less a credit for salvage.

Understanding Rule 20A process flow

A cross-functional team with representatives from PG&E, phone and cable companies, and local governments oversees the Rule 20A projects which are accomplished by:

  • Identifying and reviewing potential projects
  • Refining boundaries and costs
  • Developing preliminary project costs
  • Passing a municipal underground resolution
  • Coordinating the schedules of other public works projects
  • Developing project plans
  • Developing an underground design
  • Converting service panels for underground use
  • Starting construction
  • Installing underground services
  • Completing street work
  • Removing existing poles from the project area

Understanding Rule 20B and 20C process flow

Contact your Public Works Department and/or City Council to discuss the proposed project. To initiate a Rule 20B or 20C project with PG&E:

  • A signed application and an advance deposit must be submitted to PG&E prior to work beginning on the project. The deposit amount will depend on the size and complexity of the project.
  • Once the application has been filed, a PG&E representative will be assigned to assist in the process. If the project moves forward after initial meetings, an additional deposit may be requested to cover all PG&E engineering, project management, land rights, materials and overhead costs. Note that engineering advances are non-refundable.

Contact us

Contact us

Electric Undergrounding
77 Beale Street, Mail Code H16B
P.O. Box 770000
San Francisco, CA 94177-0001