A coalition of regional and statewide leaders urged the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today to approve San Diego Gas & Electric's Sunrise Powerlink transmission line as quickly as possible in light of a recent declaration by the federal government that San Diego is in one of the two weakest and most congested energy corridors in the United States.
The coalition, called the Community Alliance for the Sunrise Powerlink, made the announcement prior to a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hearing held today in San Diego to discuss plans to establish "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors" in areas where the electric-transmission grid is so overburdened that it constitutes a potential threat to the regional economy, national security and a reliable energy supply. Under this process, the federal government can intervene and approve needed transmission lines within these corridors if state regulators fail to act.
"A reliable supply of energy is critical to the success of our region's economy and quality of life," said Barbara Warden, a co-chair of the Alliance and President and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. "We shouldn't have to rely upon the federal government to approve critical transmission lines like the Sunrise Powerlink. The CPUC must act now before it's too late."
The DOE's call for more transmission lines in the region reinforces findings by the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator, the entity responsible for managing the state's electric grid, that the Sunrise Powerlink is needed to keep the lights on in San Diego.
The experts agree that reliable electricity is vital to San Diego, which is home to the largest naval fleet and the largest concentration of naval facilities in the world. Additionally, San Diego's $8.5 billion life-science industry supports more than 500 companies and 36,600 workers.
"Southern California's life-science industry demands secure and reliable power to remain competitive in the global marketplace," said Joe Panetta, president and CEO of BIOCOM and a co-chair of the Alliance. "Even a momentary power outage can cost companies who are developing life-saving drugs and devices."
"The region's workforce would be deeply affected by a blackout like the one in the Northeast in 2003," said Jerry Butkiewicz, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and an Alliance co-chair. "If the lights go out, our workers go home without a paycheck."
Due to rapid growth, the region will require more energy than it can import or produce locally by 2010. The Sunrise Powerlink will improve energy reliability in the region by delivering enough power to serve more than 650,000 homes.
"Our ability to attract and retain the best companies to the region depends upon having a reliable and affordable supply of electricity," said Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "If regulators fail to approve the energy infrastructure we need then our economy and strong business climate will suffer."
The line will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the region's carbon footprint by reducing the need to run older, less efficient power plants and connecting San Diego to new supplies of clean, renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal located in the Imperial Valley.
"San Diego's only major transmission line was built more than 24 years ago and the only new major energy supply is the Palomar power plant in Escondido which began operating just last year," said City of Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler. "Our region needs a balanced approach that includes renewable energy, traditional generation and new transmission lines to ensure we have the electricity we need in the future. We can't sit by any longer and just hope the lights will stay on."
The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the Sunrise Powerlink by January 2008.
The Community Alliance for the Sunrise Powerlink is a diverse group of community, business and labor leaders who support reliable, renewable and affordable energy for San Diego and Orange counties. The Alliance also represents families, small businesses and individuals who depend on a steady supply of electricity to maintain the region's strong economy and quality of life.