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Uninvited Guests Line the Road to Powerlink Ground-Breaking

— San Diego Gas & Electric held a symbolic ground breaking near here last week, launching the construction of their $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink, the 117-miles electric transmission line that the utility promises will transport electricity cleanly generated in Imperial County to San Diego.

But about 80 protestors &mdash who argue the line has little to do with clean power &mdash did their best to spoil the party, chanting loudly, honking horns and waving signs along the dirt road that SDG&E used to haul several busloads of invited guests out to remote Rough Acres Ranch for the ground-breaking.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played a key role in winning approval for the line and attended the event, called Sunrise the type of “big, bold” project needed to create a clean energy future and said it was key to the development of other solar and renewable energy projects in Imperial County.

But Bill Powers, an engineer who specializes in electric generating systems and is a leading opponent of the project, said Sunrise and similar projects make no economic or environmental sense. A strategy that places solar panels on urban rooftops, said Powers, will avoid the huge costs of building transmission lines to the desert, as well as the environmental damage that will come from large construction projects in the backcountry (one Imperial County project will cover 10 square miles).

Continually declining prices for photovoltaic panels, as well as improvements in the efficiency of these devices will make a future of distributed electric generation even more compelling, said Powers. The only reason for continuing to build expensive power lines and big remote electric facilities is to boost utility company profits, he said.

SDG&E spent more than five years and $450 million just to reach last week’s groundbreaking. The utility has refused to pledge the line will carry only renewably generated power but insists the line will improve regional electric reliability and allow it to reach a state mandate that will require utilities to derive 33 percent of their electricity from green sources by 2020.

Opponents, meanwhile, continue with legal challenges to the project in state and federal courts, as well within regulatory agencies.

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— San Diego Gas & Electric held a symbolic ground breaking near here last week, launching the construction of their $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink, the 117-miles electric transmission line that the utility promises will transport electricity cleanly generated in Imperial County to San Diego.

But about 80 protestors &mdash who argue the line has little to do with clean power &mdash did their best to spoil the party, chanting loudly, honking horns and waving signs along the dirt road that SDG&E used to haul several busloads of invited guests out to remote Rough Acres Ranch for the ground-breaking.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played a key role in winning approval for the line and attended the event, called Sunrise the type of “big, bold” project needed to create a clean energy future and said it was key to the development of other solar and renewable energy projects in Imperial County.

But Bill Powers, an engineer who specializes in electric generating systems and is a leading opponent of the project, said Sunrise and similar projects make no economic or environmental sense. A strategy that places solar panels on urban rooftops, said Powers, will avoid the huge costs of building transmission lines to the desert, as well as the environmental damage that will come from large construction projects in the backcountry (one Imperial County project will cover 10 square miles).

Continually declining prices for photovoltaic panels, as well as improvements in the efficiency of these devices will make a future of distributed electric generation even more compelling, said Powers. The only reason for continuing to build expensive power lines and big remote electric facilities is to boost utility company profits, he said.

SDG&E spent more than five years and $450 million just to reach last week’s groundbreaking. The utility has refused to pledge the line will carry only renewably generated power but insists the line will improve regional electric reliability and allow it to reach a state mandate that will require utilities to derive 33 percent of their electricity from green sources by 2020.

Opponents, meanwhile, continue with legal challenges to the project in state and federal courts, as well within regulatory agencies.

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3

Despite SDG&E's UT-reported claim that this project will reduce SDG&E's wholesale cost of electricity, virtually every SDG&E-filed application to California's Public Utilities Commission dealing with rates paid by consumers is for a retail rate hike.

http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/proceedings/docket_flash.htm

Two notable examples: A0908020 Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) proceeding on consumer ratepayers getting the tab for utility overhead equipment failures leading to wildfire legal and other costs, and A1007009 PeakShift at Work/ PeakShift at Home (PSW/PSH) small business and residential rate hikes even if Sunrise Powerlink goes online and delivers the maximum amount of power to customers in the SDG&E service area.

Dec. 13, 2010

Thanks for posting this Craig, I was at the protest and was happy there was such a good turnout of those against the Sunrise Powerlink.

SDG&E is on the brink of forever changing the San Diego back-country and here they are dressed in suits patting each other on the back for a job well done. What they have done is a complete "Green Wash" of this entire project. There is nothing green about cutting through untouched wilderness for an antiquated powerline that is unnecessary.

To use the title of your article, I would say that the Governor, SDG&E, and the Sunrise Powerlink supporters attending the event were the "uninvited guests" to our pristine backcountry, Regards, Bob B. Leucadia http://www.anzaborrego.net/

Dec. 13, 2010

I agree with your comments; this was a Boondoggle from the beginning and if the CPC had any real pro consumers on it, this project would have never been considered!

Why consumers DON'T question why SDG&E share holders have had record earning while our rates have continued to climb (paying for those profits) is beyond me!

Dec. 13, 2010

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