State commission OKs southern route for Powerlink

In a 4-1 vote last Thursday, California Public Utilities Commission approved San Diego Gas & Electric’s controversial transmission line “to promote renewable power, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve electricity reliability in the San Diego region.”

While the commission opted for a southern route for the 120-mile 1,000-megawatt Sunrise Powerlink Transmission Project rather than stringing it through portions of Ramona and the backcountry, some residents here plan to join an opposition movement, saying the line is a fire risk and is not necessary.

The approved route for the $1.9 billion transmission line goes through southern Imperial and San Diego counties and rejects a proposal to locate the line in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. SDG&E is required to implement what the commission calls significant mitigation measures to minimize the project’s environmental impact.

The project will support the development of renewable energy in the Imperial Valley, one of the state’s richest renewable energy regions, according to the commission. Replacing fossil fueled generation with geothermal, solar and wind energy is necessary for California to meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals, the commission said.

“The project is also expected to improve the reliability of the transmission network in the San Diego region and reduce costs for consumers,” states a news release from the commission.

“Sunrise will improve our transmission system and provide reliable electricity to guard against unexpected high load growth in SDG&E’s service area,” said Michael R. Peevey, commission president. “This critical infrastructure upgrade will also help SDG&E meet its renewable power goals because it will deliver renewable generation from the Imperial Valley that would otherwise remain unavailable. This will help us meet our renewable power goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The CPUC’s approval of the Sunrise Powerlink today will help pave the way toward achieving the state’s aggressive environmental and energy policy goals  Debra L. Reed, SDG&E president and chief executive officer, said on Dec. 18. “Reliable transmission infrastructure is critically needed to reinforce the region’s electric system and to open up new avenues for delivering green energy to our customers.”

The permitting process for the Sunrise Powerlink project was the most comprehensive ever completed for a power line in California history, according to SDG&E.

SDG&E plans to finalize engineering and design on the project, procure equipment and then begin construction on the line that is expected to provide energy to as many as 650,000 households. Completion of the line is expected in 2012.

“The approved route for the line is the best option, said Commissioner Rachelle Chong. “The lack of transmission has slowed the development of renewable energy in California. Approving Sunrise Powerlink helps remove this barrier.”

“In addition to removing reliability and access to renewable energy, Sunrise will also promote economic growth,” said Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon. “Constructing Sunrise and tapping into the Imperial Valley’s renewable energy potential will bring jobs and development to the Imperial Valley region.”

More information is available on the commission’s Web site, www.cpuc.ca.gov.

   
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