Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 | Sunrise Powerlink is NOT the answer to removal of the South Bay Power Plant

There is no more vehement opponent to the South Bay Power Plant than the Environmental Health Coalition. For years, we have fought hard for removal of the plant and elimination of the environmental and health risks it poses. However, we differ with Ms. Lisa Cohen of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce — construction of the multi-billion dollar boondoggle known as the Sunrise Powerlink is NOT the answer.

The Sunrise Powerlink will have a devastating impact on not only the environment in our region, but our energy future. It is NOT assured that the Powerlink will bring in primarily renewable energy. In fact, it is becoming clearer every day that the Powerlink may be used largely to serve less regulated power plants in Mexico and other states —increasing air pollution and unraveling statewide efforts to combat global warming. Further, hundreds of mega-watts (MW) of renewable energy can already be transmitted here through existing transmission — we don’t need Sunrise to achieve this goal. SDG&E has admitted they can meet their renewable energy benchmarks without Sunrise Powerlink, as pointed out in a July 2007 ruling issued by the California Public Utilities Commissioner in charge of the Sunrise Powerlink proceedings.

EHC is also very concerned that the transmission line will do little to help us get rid of the South Bay Power Plant, primarily because local generation and remote generation through 90-mile, vulnerable power lines are not factored the same way when determining our needed energy for reliability. In fact, EHC strongly believes that if the Powerlink is constructed, it may exacerbate our current situation by frustrating efforts and requirements and limit funding available for clean, locally controlled, in-basin power generation.

We encourage everyone to follow the many discussions and hearings on this project as important information is being revealed during the CPUC hearings and Energy Working Group meetings. Five hundred and fifty MW can easily be added to our in-coming transmission through improvements to the existing Path 44 to the north and the Southwest Powerlink to the south for a fraction of the cost of the Powerlink. By covering only 25 percent of existing parking lots with solar panels we could generate up to 3,000 MW of energy. Employing cost-effective and reasonable energy efficiency measures will flatten and reduce the growth of energy demand in our region. Appropriately sited and sized distributed generation, like combined heat and power and fuel cells, can help stabilize our grid and power our region when, as recently happened during the fires, the large powerlines are down.

Large transmission lines are also not reliable; they create ever-present risks related to fire. But, it is also important to understand that both of the east-west powerlines, Southwest and the proposed Sunrise, are planned to be hooked to the same power substation in Imperial Valley. This is not a scenario for energy reliability and puts our region at more risk, not less.

EHC has been committed to getting rid of the South Bay Power Plant through pursuing a regional plan for maximizing energy efficiency, local renewable energy and appropriately-sited distributed generation where necessary, and maximizing the efficiency and use of the existing local transmission grid. Our region should follow this path, enabling us to meet the energy needs of a growing region, use natural gas most efficiently, stabilize our grid, and secure the reliability of our generation. We don’t need either of these devastating projects — the South Bay Power Plant or the Sunrise Powerlink.

There is a better way.

Laura Hunter is the director the Environmental Health Coalition’s Clean Bay Campaign. Agree? Disagree? Send a letter to the editor.

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