San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will launch a third phase of community outreach sessions March 20, 2006, to continue to gather public input on the Sunrise Powerlink electric-transmission line. This series of community working group meetings and open houses will include for the first time discussion of the utility’s preferred and alternative routes for the proposed 120-mile line from Imperial Valley, California, to San Diego.

The Sunrise Powerlink will serve as a new energy superhighway to import enough power for about 650,000 SDG&E customers in Southern California and dramatically improve the reliability of the region’s electrical transmission grid, according to SDG&E.

"The No. 1 reason this project is needed is reliability - to make sure we can meet our customers’ energy needs in 2010 and beyond," said James P. Avery, senior vice president - electric for SDG&E. "Other benefits of the line include improved access to solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of power in the Imperial Valley, as well as reduced costs for our customers."

SDG&E has gotten feedback from more than 1000 people who have attended one or more of the community meetings held in October 2005 and last month to evaluate the issues involved in the siting process.

"Public input has been tremendously helpful as we planned the route for the Sunrise Powerlink," said Avery. "Comments we received during the first two phases of workshops and community meetings helped refine the criteria we used to identify the route alternatives."

After more than six months of analyzing technical and environmental data and gathering public input, SDG&E will share details of its proposed preferred and alternate routes for the line, which will include desert, mountain, inland valley and urban segments. The March 20 announcement is a key milestone in the siting process. The public still has many more opportunities to provide feedback on the location of the line through the company’s upcoming series of open houses, as well as through the formal regulatory process that will continue for more than a year.

"We invite people to get involved in the process to help us find a solution for a route that will meet the growing demand for electricity in our region," said Avery. "We welcome the chance to work together to ensure that SDG&E can continue to meet our obligation to deliver safe, reliable energy to all of our customers, while considering the needs of our communities and the environment."

In December 2005, SDG&E submitted its filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to explain in detail the need for the transmission line between the San Diego region and California’s Imperial Valley. This summer, the utility will file with the CPUC a full environmental analysis of all the routing options it plans to propose. The CPUC then will issue a schedule of dates for filed comments and public participation hearings. A final decision on the line is expected next year.