San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has invited representatives of community groups, consumer organizations, elected officials, and local, state and federal agencies to meet next week to begin an extensive public dialogue about the utility’s plans to build the Sunrise Powerlink, a proposed major new electric-transmission line between San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“This transmission project is vital to ensure we have enough electricity in the future to meet the energy needs of our growing region,” said David L. Geier, SDG&E’s vice president of electric transmission and distribution. “Industry forecasts show that, within the next five years, our customers will require more electricity than can be produced locally or imported over existing transmission lines.

“The Sunrise Powerlink is needed to ensure the reliability of our system,“ added Geier. “The line also will help reduce energy costs by accessing cheaper power generated outside the region – including renewable sources – and will give us options to ensure electricity prices stay competitive.”

At a news conference on Aug. 31, 2005, SDG&E announced its plans to build the Sunrise Powerlink, which could import enough power for about 650,000 SDG&E customers in Southern California. Today, the utility launched an aggressive effort to solicit public feedback as a key part of the process for siting the project.

“A route for the line has not been identified yet, and we know the location of the line will likely be the topic of greatest interest to people who may be affected by it,” said Geier. “With that in mind, we’re committed to getting public input on the project before a route is selected, so it will truly reflect a regional solution.”

SDG&E’s Imperial Valley substation has been selected as the starting point for the line, which is expected to span about 120 miles before linking into SDG&E’s existing transmission system. A route and final interconnection point will be determined after the public process is completed.

In kicking off its aggressive public involvement efforts, SDG&E invited more than 150 agencies and individuals to take part in two working sessions in October to evaluate the constraints and opportunities involved in the siting process. More sessions are set for November and early next year. Meetings are scheduled in two locations and attendees are welcome at either one.

The first meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 3, 2005, at the Doubletree Golf Resort, 14455 Penasquitos Drive in San Diego from 8 a.m. to 11 a. m.

The second meeting site is Oct. 5, 2005, at Ramona Elementary School, 415 8th Street in Ramona, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. These are the first of more than a dozen opportunities for public comment on the Sunrise Powerlink project, which also will include neighborhood “open houses” at several locations around the county starting in mid-October.

The utility will publicize the details of the dates, times and locations of the open houses through paid advertising in local newspapers and in notices posted at libraries and community centers. All working group sessions and open houses are open to the public. Those who cannot attend the meetings can learn more about the project and provide their input by contacting SDG&E through the project’s toll-free information line – 877-775-6818.