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Thanks to everyone who’s taken time to post comments today. This is a great forum to hear directly from our customers. Here are a few responses to some your questions and comments.

Reader eastcountian wrote:

I don’t dispute that we’re gonna need more power in the future…but what I want to know is, how can you possibly spread the cost of this line across your san diego customer base without bankrupting all of us?

That’s a fair question. I know there’s been a lot in the news lately about the amount of cost savings Sunrise will provide customers. First, the cost for the $1.3 billion line will be spread among ratepayers across the state. SDG&E customers will only pay for 10 percent of the line.

By limiting the need to run old, inefficient power plants and relieving jammed transmission lines, the Sunrise Powerlink will help save customers over $100 million per year. That’s in-line with estimates from the California Independent System Operator that range from approximately $50 million to $220 million per year. However, I want to stress that we need the line regardless of the economic benefits. The fact that it provides savings is great news for our customers, but reliability and renewables are the primary reasons for building the line.

Reader Aaron wrote:

Conservation is dramatically more cost-effective than new transmission capacity, and also addresses global warming which capacity does not. Why not take these hundreds of millions of dollars and invest them in energy conservation projects instead?

Thanks for your comment. I agree that conservation is often the most cost-effective measure and it is a key component of SDG&E’s regional energy plan.  This plan includes a balance of energy efficiency, renewable resources as well as new generation and transmission.

In fact, for the Sunrise case SDG&E is counting on 440 megawatts of savings from energy-efficiency and 265 megawatts savings from demand response programs by 2015. Those aggressive savings are nearly the equivalent of two large, new power plants. 

SDG&E will continue to promote and implement energy-efficiency and conservation programs. But unfortunately, they alone won’t be enough to satisfy future demand. We still need new power plants and transmission lines.

Reader CJ wrote:

Mike, is it true that if the Powerlink is built, SDG&E has no control over the power that is brought through that line? So it is correct to state that those renewables you so desperately need may not even go through Sunrise?

You are right to some extent. SDG&E does turn over control of its high-voltage power lines to the California Independent System Operator, which operates about 80 percent of the state’s grid. However, SDG&E is seeking to “fill” Sunrise by contracting with renewable power sources generated in the Imperial Valley and east San Diego County. We’ve already signed contracts for over 700 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal energy and more is on the way. It’s VERY HARD for a new power plant of any type to be financed and constructed without a longer-term contract. Thus, our focus on contracting for renewable resources should successfully result in these green projects being built provided transmission capacity is available. But one thing’s for sure n without Sunrise, many of these projects will stall or fail because there are limited transmission lines to deliver the energy from the Imperial Valley area to SDG&E customers.

Reader Oscar wrote:

If California is going green, San Diego should take part and build the Sunrise Powerlink. San Diego will be linked to a vast amount of renewable power that otherwise we would not be able to access. With the state mandate that requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2010 fast approaching, we need to get Sunrise Powerlink built now.

That’s correct, Oscar. “Going green” isn’t going to be easy, but we have a historic opportunity to make it happen. Imperial Valley could become a leading producer of renewable power if transmission lines like Sunrise are built. In fact, the California Energy Commission, which is responsible for approving renewable-energy projects, is holding hearings today on a new transmission strategy to address this issue. It’s a long study, but here’s what it says about Sunrise:

Sunrise Powerlink 500 kV Project

This project would provide significant near term system reliability benefits to California, reduce system congestion and its resultant costs, and provide an interconnection to…renewable resources located in the Imperial Valley…

— MIKE NIGGLI

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