State and local elected officials joined San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) today to dedicate the first major high-voltage underground electric transmission line in San Diego's history.

"The Otay-Metro Powerloop is an innovative solution to the problem of transporting energy within a growing region where overhead power lines are not always feasible or desirable," said Debra L. Reed, president and chief executive officer of SDG&E. "This project melds new technology with sound environmental principles to deliver safe and reliable power to the region."

The 52-mile Otay-Metro Powerloop includes two new 230,000-V electric lines, which will carry reliable and affordable electricity within San Diego for the next several decades. The project was prompted, in part, by the increase in new power plants built in San Diego County, including one in Escondido last year and another scheduled to come online in Otay Mesa in 2009.

The project is needed to help move energy around the San Diego region more efficiently, much like a trolley line extension serves commuters, Reed said -- especially rapidly redeveloping areas such as downtown San Diego and Chula Vista.

As its name implies, the Otay-Metro Powerloop creates a loop around the heart of San Diego County, connecting the cities of San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Santee and the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Approximately 10 miles of this new line were built underground, with the remaining portion placed on new or existing poles within SDG&E's existing utility corridors, saving customers money and reducing impact on the environment, Reed said.

The line was built with minimal impact on homes, businesses and commuters, despite its path through dense urban and suburban areas. SDG&E launched an aggressive outreach program with city leaders, community groups and individual customers to gain input before construction began. Customers offered suggestions on ways to reduce the impact on traffic, noise and construction dust, Reed said.

"SDG&E worked closely with businesses and residents along the project route to minimize disruptions," said Reed. "The result was a project completed ahead of schedule and under budget."

Construction on the Otay-Metro Powerloop began in 2005. As with other electric-transmission projects, the cost of the $210 million Powerloop is being underwritten by all California energy consumers, with San Diego consumers paying approximately one-tenth of the cost.

Reed said the project also will pave the way for eventual removal of nearly 20 lattice tower structures along the bayfront in Chula Vista.

The new line is part of SDG&E's Long-Term Resource Plan, which calls for a balanced mix of new power plants, transmission lines and conservation efforts to ensure the region has the energy it needs well into the future.