A recent Associated Press report in our diminutive daily paper informs us that while San Diego Gas and Electric Company already has a plan in the regulatory pipeline for charging future electric car users in multiple senses, SDG&E still hasn't done the infrastructure work to handle large numbers of San Diego residents switching to electric-powered personal transportation in the coming months.

According to SDG&E's James Avery, “This is a problem, or a situation, that we identified several years ago” before SDG&E's holding company Sempra Energy decided to sell off its lucratively-profitable RBS Sempra Commodities joint venture share as the price of gold suddenly went north of $1300 an ounce. Now that Sempra Energy has put some distance between itself and last year's CBS 60 Minutes report on the $300 million-a-year conflict gold smuggling route from the Congo to Dubai, Sempra Energy can start concentrating on its owned utilities. Preparing to make massive money on electric car recharging should be as natural as a Sempra Energy environmental safety manager falling off a stack of California asbestos regulations for such an experienced and sophisticated firm as SDG&E.

But lo. SDG&E doesn't have enough electricity to go around.

A survey of recent SDG&E applications, filed and submitted for approval by California's Public Utilities Commission, shows that SDG&E has testified regularly and repeatedly that there is not and will not be enough electricity in San Diego to keep prices down. The major rationale for SDG&E's CPUC-approved Sunrise Powerlink project is to supply electricity to all San Diego consumers, but even with that project starting construction now, there is not and will not be enough electricity in San Diego to keep prices down, or some Sempra Energy attorneys representing SDG&E before CPUC haven't been all that truthful in their signed statements to state power regulators.

The big sign that there is no SDG&E electricity here for electric vehicle charging is SDG&E's PeakShift at Work/ PeakShift at Home rate hike application, where daytime business hour usage by small businesses and home residents could go up by a factor of ten (or alternatively up by many hundreds of percent) compared to evening and weekend off-peak rates. This application was submitted by SDG&E long after the Sunrise Powerlink was well on its way to approval, and the purpose of the PSW/PSH application is to "incent" residential and small business customers out of the daytime business hour market in favor of larger, industrial-strength power customers with higher demand priorities. For our part, we will be charged $118 million on our monthly power bills for SDG&E to advertise to us what a great idea it is to do our lower-priority laundry once the local bars shut down well after Happy Hour.

According to SDG&E, many transformers will need to be swapped out and replaced before electric vehicles start drawing power through 240 volt lines for recharging in less than five hours after plugging in. One nightmare scenario mentioned in the AP article: “People come home from work on a hot afternoon, turn on the air conditioner and the plasma television, blend some frozen cocktails, start cooking dinner on an electric stove – and plug their car into a home charging station.”

Emergency Management Proper Prior Planning Considerations

Thankfully, we are now aware of the looming hazard of us tripping SDG&E's major circuit breakers all over town just because we traded one set of energy cartel types peddling rather expensive gasoline for another energy cartel pushing increasingly expensive electricity. The risk is that SDG&E will in no way build enough capacity to handle the load without subjecting us to an even higher wildfire risk from an overtaxed power distribution system that still mostly consists of overhead power lines.

For information on hazard identification and risk assessment in an all-hazard community emergency planning context, view the FEMA Emergency Management Institute IS-235 Emergency Planning course summary at:

IS-235 Emergency Planning course summary (PDF)

Currently, SDG&E estimates that a standard household needs about 3 kilowatts of power to operate normally, and that's not counting an added electric vehicle recharging station. At the same time, we all want to make SDG&E's existence a little easier because a total grid failure is not a good thing for anybody. Our best bet for helping out SDG&E is to start generating some off-grid electrical power to use for free on our own.

I am still a few year's away from pumping out well over a kilowatt of my own solar photovoltaic power off the grid, generally as a collective always-on standby generation source if and when the grid does start failing on a more or less regular basis, kind of like how we endure water mains blowing out in multiple neighborhoods several times a month now. A square yard of off-grid battery-recharging solar panel putting out 45 watts is still only about $160 each on sale at Harbor Freight, usually about $250 full price. One panel and an inverter with 120-volt outlets together run my lap top with no effort. Five panels put out enough juice to keep the Energy Star refrigerator running and my ice cream sandwiches freezer-cold, and electricity from solar fusion costs me nothing once the panels are up and running for years and years.

By the time I've got 20 panels or more running by adding another one every other month or so, I'll giving away electricity to my next door neighbors as I await numerous delectable baked goods in the return barter trade. I already like this part of the underground economy pretty much now.

With 40 or more off-grid solar panels, SDG&E can keep its EV recharging stations, and Sempra Energy can bilk somebody else. I'll never need them again, and for that, I am sincerely thankful.

Here's to everyone else enjoying some independence in their lives as well. Thank God.


Founder Nov. 26, 2010 @ 2:46 p.m.

"Some independence" will become the new definition of the moderate wealthy!

Here's to you and thanks for taking the time to give all of US a glimpse of one lucky San Diegan...


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