Comments of San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob Southwest Area National Energy Corridor Designation Public Meeting Before the Department of Energy


San Diego, California
May 17, 2007

I would like to thank the Department of Energy for holding today’s hearing on its proposed Southwest National Energy Corridor. I know this public hearing is not mandated under the Federal Power Act. I appreciate the Department’s diligence in seeking input from areas most impacted by the proposed corridor.

I am a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. San Diego County is one of the seven California counties included in the proposed corridor. At about 82,430 square miles, the corridor is more than half the size of entire State of California.

I represent the people of San Diego County’s Second District, which encompasses the eastern portion of San Diego County. My district includes many communities affected by San Diego Gas and Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink transmission line proposal.

In a document dated March 6, 2006, SDG&E argues that the preferred route of the Sunrise Powerlink be designated a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.

I believe that SDG&E is attempting to pull an end-run around the existing permitting process.

The Department of Energy should not steal energy transmission planning from of the hands of California stakeholders and pile on yet another layer of costly, duplicative, bureaucratic review.

Instead, the Deparment should consider disturbing questions surrounding the case for the Sunrise Powerlink. These questions negate the need for the Corridor Designation for San Diego County.

The 2006 National Electric Transmission Congestion Study— the study upon which the proposed corridor is based— assumes as fact SDG&E’s claims of congestion along the region’s existing 500 kilovolt transmission line known as the Southwest Powerline.

Unfortunately, the study did not consider a finding by a three-judge arbitration panel in April of 2006. That panel determined that Sempra Energy— the parent company of SDG&E— created artificial congestion on the Southwest Powerline. Sempra, it should be noted, owns generation that feeds the Southwest line.

For these Enron-style shenanigans, Sempra paid 70 million in fines to the State of California.

By including San Diego County in the corridor designation, the Department of Energy may very well be basing unprecedented national energy policy on entirely phantom congestion. This situation merits, at the very least, additional information from Sempra Energy, the parent company of SDG&E.

In addition to SDG&E’s assertion that Sunrise will alleviate transmission congestion in San Diego County, the utility claims Sunrise is needed to meet a State renewable energy mandate that calls for 20 percent of SDG&E’s power to come from renewables by 2010.

In public relations materials, the utility attempts to portray Sunrise as a lifeline to a wealth of potential renewable energy in Imperial County. The utility says it has enthusiastic hopes for renewable potential in Imperial County, particularly the Stirling solar dish project, a technology which has never been commercially tested. Experts are now raising concerns about its viability.

As recently as October of 2006, SDG&E was asked by a group of local energy stakeholders if the utility would be willing to guarantee that a minimum percentage of the power imported via Sunrise would come from renewables like Stirling.

SDG&E responded in writing, “The physics of internconnected grid operation are incompatible with the notion of ascribing particular sources of generation to particular transmission lines.” Simply put, SDG&E will offer no such guarantee.

Last month, the utility lobbied heavily against a bill in Sacramento that would have increased the State’s renewable mandate to 33 percent by 2020, 13 years from now.

Such equivocating by the utility has caused many to speculate of a more sinister plot:

That Sunrise is less a way to end transmission congestion, less a way to pioneer renewable energy and more a way for SEMPRA to profit from cheap Baja power sold outside of SDG&E’s service territory.

Numerous alternatives to Sunrise have been suggested to San Diego Gas and Electric and have gained little traction.

Experts say retooling two existing power plants already in-basin would end the region’s future energy gap at a fraction of Sunrise’s 1.3 billion price tag.

Experts also say that the so-called Green Path North, a proposed 500 kV line being proposed by Los Angeles Department of Power and Water and the Imperial Irrigation District would negate the need for Sunrise. This is a subject I hope will be addressed by SDG&E in its upcoming draft environmental documents for Sunrise.

Before the Department of Energy includes San Diego County as a congested corridor or accepts as gospel SDG&E’s support for renewable energy, please consider the message the larger designation sends to Californians.

The designation makes the assumption that the process in place is broken. It’s not.

The 2006 National Electric Transmission Congestion Study identifies four large Southern California energy projects needed to secure energy reliability in the near term.

The California Public Utilities Commission has permitted or is in the process of permitting all but one of these projects: Sunrise. All but one of these projects has been especially controversial: Sunrise.

The CPUC’s system is not broken. It is a lengthy, deliberative, frustrating-by-nature, process that weeds out unworthy projects.

Let there be no mistake: the proposed corridor designation is only about jamming through the Sunrise project over the objections of local, State and Federal officials.

If, in the future, the Department of Energy is able to brush aside the State of California and approve a failed Sunrise proposal, it will be giving special treatment to SDG&E.

Such favoritism toward one special interest sets a dangerous, dangerous precedent.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the corridor. I appreciate your willingness to travel to San Diego County.