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Jerry Butkiewicz argued, according to the memo, that “elected officials might not support a new transmission line for fear they might be defeated at the polls.” And Michael Zucchet commented again “on the importance of being honest about the merits of a project.” But at this point, most participants seemed to have dropped their earlier resistance to transmission lines.

As the discussion wound down, several participants noted “that the public generally looks at new transmission lines unfavorably.” Therefore, SDG&E should “make a case that transmission lines improve reliability,” especially that they would “prevent potential outages during emergency situations.”

Finally, the decisive question was put. “Suppose you knew that SDG&E could meet the state’s renewables mandate by 2010…if it were able to construct a major new transmission line that could access hard to reach renewables.… Would you be more inclined to support [it]?” The most prevalent response was “Yes, but education is needed to connect the ideas.” The minority view: “No, because reliability is a more salient message.” An education program needed to emphasize safety and affordability too. But Butkiewicz observed that “pro-environment messages resonated with important target audiences.”

On the basis of the focus group, Southwest Strategies recommended to SDG&E, among other things, that the company craft a convincing message about increasing local control in San Diego. “Undoubtedly, the group believes that greater local control, through the construction of more power plants, by itself solves reliability issues.

“To address this misperception, SDG&E might consider educating the public and key leaders about how new transmission can also improve local control.” This should “help SDG&E reach its infrastructure goals more effectively.”

Opposition Groups Spring Up

Southwest Strategies suggested another tactic for making the Sunrise Powerlink sound reasonable to the public. SDG&E should include in its “public affairs plan” a “bottom up, or grass roots, approach.… This style of outreach would involve selling SDG&E’s Long-Term Resource Plan to community groups and activists who have influence with important elected officials. The [focus] group…suggested that elected officials might not support a new transmission line unless they believed ‘political cover’ existed to get behind such a project.”

Many politicians didn’t seem to worry about political cover, however. For example, San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders jumped on board Sunrise almost as soon as the proposal was announced, well before the start of the Public Utilities Commission process allowing ordinary citizens, concerned groups, and power-supply experts to be heard.

The Public Utilities review process consists of two phases. In Phase One, a single Public Utilities commissioner (there are five) holds “scoping” meetings, which are intended to allow public comment on what the commission should require a professional environmental inquiry to investigate about the proposed project. The commissioner assigned to the case and an administrative law judge then take testimony from SDG&E and “interveners.” (The commission grants intervener status to those it determines can provide technical, legal, or otherwise relevant information.) Phase Two comes after the environmental document has been written. (More about Phase Two below.)

The “grass roots” approach that Southwest Strategies suggested to SDG&E ran into much tougher sledding than the company’s apparent pitch to politicians. As soon as news got out about the Sunrise Powerlink, opposition groups sprung up along the line’s route. After leaving Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the route would go west through Grapevine Canyon, south of Warner Springs, through the Santa Ysabel Valley, south of Ramona, and through Rancho Peñasquitos. It would end at an existing substation near the west end of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, in San Diego’s Torrey Hills neighborhood. To date, there are at least nine opposition groups. Several of the community groups preexisted news of the Sunrise plan. But they have joined together in an umbrella organization called Communities United for Sensible Power.

Diane Conklin is president of the umbrella organization and of the Mussey Grade Road Alliance. Conklin lives with her husband near Kimball Valley, on the outskirts of Ramona. Conklin founded the Mussey Grade group in 1999 as a way to help protect the area. She feels that Sunrise is one of the greatest dangers her constituents face.

Conklin remembers reading about Sunrise for the first time in the Julian News in November 2005. “I learned later,” Conklin tells me, “that about that time SDG&E came to Ramona — it was really nefarious in my mind — to conduct little meetings, quietly, with people they considered to be opinion leaders. I believe they had to pay consultants a whole lot of money to tell them to hold these meetings and win over the hearts and minds of all these people, who are then going to sell the soap. I think they gathered together groups of 20 or so to sell the necessity of the transmission line, and they were also getting the people’s impressions.”

SDG&E filed its application for the Sunrise Powerlink with the Public Utilities Commission on December 14, 2005. Conklin says the company continued holding the meetings in Ramona, “but by that time people had caught on.”

On Tuesday, January 31, 2006, according to Conklin, approximately 500 to 700 local residents came to a prehearing conference at a Ramona school in the middle of the day. “People couldn’t even get into the room, it was so crowded,” she tells me. “That’s when SDG&E began to understand that they had a big fight on their hands. Here they marshaled all their forces, with all the smartest people they could find, and rolled out a battle plan. Most of the communities, of course, were caught by surprise, because the company was working it in a nonpublic way, so that they could get a toehold. But it didn’t work.

“Then Greystone Consulting had what I call ‘bazaars.’ It’s a very interesting technique. Instead of having one person before a roomful of people, where everybody hears the same thing at the same time and can ask questions, they would divide the issues to be answered into separate booths. People would go from booth to booth to get their information. But what most people did, because it’s the natural thing, most people went and tried to find out if the line affected their land. So they had a long line of people where the maps were being produced. I even did that. I went over to find out where it was in relation to my home and other homes in the Kimball Valley and Mussey Grade area. So you’re not getting the full information. It was almost as though Sunrise was a fait accompli, ‘but we’ll give you some information about how it’s going to affect you.’ In the long run, this didn’t work either, because people gradually began to understand that the line itself was not a good idea,” says Conklin.

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paul May 28, 2008 @ 2:13 p.m.

From http://kdfuller.blogspot.com/2008/04/stirling-energy-systems-and-sunrise.html

consider the testimony of Barry Butler, a PhD expert in Stirling solar technology who concluded:

“Major reliability problems with the SAIC Stirling engine included hydrogen leakage through joints and seals, internal engine seal leakage, swashplate actuator stalls, and heater head braze joint hydrogen leaks. That means that on average once every 40 hours a problem of some type required shut down and maintenance. Nearly continuous maintenance was necessary to keep the system “available” to generate electricity. … The commercial viability of the Stirling system is unproven at this time. …there is no possible way that dish/Stirling solar can move from high cost prototype models with substantive reliability concerns to large-scale production of high reliability low-cost commercial models by 2008 and full operation of a 12,000 dish, 300 MW array by the end of 2010.”


paul May 28, 2008 @ 2:31 p.m.

$1.5 billion in solar panels at $3.5/watt listed by SCE would install 428 megawatts of capacity onto San Diego rooftops. Why in the world are we the worst in the state when it comes to SDG&E encouraging solar panels, when we are in the best geographical position in the state to use them?

Between state and federal incentive programs, long-term leases on panels and the savings in not buying new power plants, another 500 megawatts could easily be installed. That would add close to 1,000 megawatts of power right were it is needed without a single new power plant being built and without using any additional fuel to run them for the next 20-30 years.

Consider also what the existing SDG&E powerlines in the backcountry have cost us by starting huge fires burning thousands of homes. There was a 100+ acre fire in Penasquitos canyon last month that started under power lines very near where the Sunrise Powerlink is proposed to terminate. I never heard a peep on what caused the fire other than "it started under power lines on a hot and windy day". I am guessing that if there was another cause of the fire, SDG&E would have let us know.


mshames May 28, 2008 @ 8:36 p.m.

Here's the latest scoop on SDG&E's profits from this project: if the project is approved by the Public Utilities Commission, SDG&E stands to reap $1.3203 billion. Because of the nature of FERC ratemaking, that $1.32 billion is strongly front-loaded. More than half of the $1.32 billion profit to SDG&E shareholders occurs in the first 8½ years of the project’s 58 year life, from mid-2011 through the end of 2019.

So you do the math.........does SDG&E walk away from the largest, most lucrative project that it is has ever built? Not a chance.

Check out the UCAN web page (www.ucan.org) on May 30th and you'll see how this project is a huge money-loser, isn't needed to keep the lights on and only about 25% of the line's capacity will be used to bring renewable power into San Diego.....all based upon SDG&E's own numbers!)


Geoffrey May 28, 2008 @ 11:06 p.m.

Dave Hogan clearly points out the very significant consequences of running utility infrastructure through our public lands. Kudos to him for those observations. Add to the plant, animal, and human costs of such abuse of these lands that the proposed power line would cause: Thousands of acres of existing and proposed federal wilderness lands, currently pending in the US Congress as S.493 (Boxer) and H.R.860 (Solis), 'The California Wild Heritage Act'. Some of the wild and remote places in the San Diego back country included in this bill are:

Eagle Peak Complex Wilderness proposal – 24,488 acres Hauser Wilderness Additions proposal – 7,604 acres Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Additions proposal – 6,518 acres Carrizo Gorge Wilderness Addition proposal – 6,508 acres Pine Creek Wilderness Addition Adjustment proposal – 214 acres San Diego Wild and Scenic River proposal – 9 miles long Cedar Creek Wild and Scenic River proposal – 6 miles long Pine Valley Creek Wild and Scenic River proposal – 7.5 miles long

Each of the proposed wire allignments would directly or indirectly impact one or many of these special places. Do we want to leave a legacy of designated federal wilderness lands for future generations -- with our apologies? "We are sorry, children, that the solitude and pristine wilderness qualities of these national heritage lands are now compromised because the greed of a few overpowered the sanctity of our national wilderness heritage."

I don't believe we should have to make those apologies. Keep the wilderness wild. Let's generate our power in-basin, and let's talk about conservation. For the sake of wilderness.

More: http://www.wilderness4all.org


Fred Williams May 29, 2008 @ 6:25 a.m.

How many former Enron employees are now at Sempra?

How much money has Sempra given to politicians, local, state, national?

If I recall correctly, Sempra is one of the biggest backers of Prop. C. That's the proposition on next week's ballot that would take away any chance of having an independent auditor in San Diego...the fox guarding the henhouse. Didn't they also give a lot of money to the Mayor's campaign slush fund?

Now, why would an honest, upright, public-spirited bunch of people like Enr...oops...Sempra give so much campaign money? Could it be so they can get people like Jim Madaffer to do their dirty work for them, as shown in this article? Could it be so that our Mayor for Sale Sanders would look the other way while San Diego looses it's chance for real energy security?

Sorry, Sempra. Your KPBS commercials of little girls talking about renewable energy doesn't fool us a bit. You're a greedy manipulative trading house that will take money even at the cost of destroying the future prospects of this region.

Time for some pickets and rotten eggs at your downtown office tower.


dgarmon May 30, 2008 @ 12:32 a.m.

As someone who has been deeply involved with this issue since going to court in 2007 to oppose SDG&E's "pre-condemnation surveys" on my property in Borrego Springs, I am grateful for the clear, concise, and comprehensive reporting done in this article. The issue is really a simple one: Sempra has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make as much money as possible. No matter how hard Sempra tries to deny it, "greenwash" it, dress it up, and claim it isn't so, the simple fact is Sempra's fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders is in conflict with the greater good of our community. The greater good is served by in-basin, distributed generation that will be cheaper, more reliable, greener, will not cause wildfires, and will leave the treasures of our backcountry intact for future generations. It is time for the Governor's office to be inundated with calls, letters, and e-mail from citizens who would like to see San Diego make the right decision on this critically important issue.


surfponto May 29, 2008 @ 8:26 p.m.

One of the better articles I have read on all the shortcomings of SDG&E's Sunrise PowerLink.

I think we have to ask ourselves do we want to line SDG&E's pockets with profits from an archaic technology or do we truly want a smarter energy solution ?

Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the San Diego back country are precious resources that are unlike any in the world. We need to defeat this proposal and protect these areas. Bob



seahorse May 31, 2008 @ 7:29 p.m.

Wow. This article really opened my eyes.

The opposition has done such a poor job of bringing this to light. They have bumper stickers that say save Anza Borego. That doesn't really help people know how much of a scam this. A lot of people simply don't care or think it is a necessary loss and do think the opposition is just about enviro nuts.

How about sending the message that this is the next Enron scam. A lot of politicians have supported this, maybe it is time to start knocking on their doors and getting them to change their position. Don't start with the Governor, start with the locals and work up.


MURPHYJUNK June 14, 2008 @ 10:02 a.m.

“Will These Keep the Lights On?”

Seems to me, they could use all the towers they already have, just use thicker wire, or add more wires?

maybe too simple an solution ( or maybe "someone" will not profit from it.

I live in lakeside, and see towers side by side going over the hills in both directions, does not make sense to me.



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