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SDG&E Says Enough Power Lined Up For Summer Because Of Sunrise Powerlink

San Diego Gas & Electric and the agency that oversees the distribution of electricity in California say enough power is lined up for the hot summer months despite the loss of the nuclear power plant at San Onofre, due in large part to the upcoming opening of the Sunrise Powerlink.

The first 142-foot Sunrise Powerlink transmission tower was completed March 9, near McCain Valley Road in Boulevard, just north of Interstate 8.

Above: The first 142-foot Sunrise Powerlink transmission tower was completed March 9, near McCain Valley Road in Boulevard, just north of Interstate 8.

SDG&E President Mike Niggli said the transmission line, which will carry electricity from the Imperial County desert into San Diego and southern Orange County, could be energized as soon as this weekend.

"It is just in time,'' Niggli said. "This is a very, very big step for San Diego in terms of ensuring a reliable power supply.''

The major transmission line will have a capacity of 800 megawatts, nearly double SDG&E's share of the energy produced by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which has been shut down since a leak was detected in a tube in Unit 3 on Jan. 31. Unit 2 was already off-line for planned maintenance.

The plant is likely to be shut down through August, according to its majority owner and operator, Southern California Edison. SDG&E owns 20 percent of the plant and receives one-fifth of the power it creates.

With the Sunrise Powerlink on-line and the return to operation of a plant in Huntington Beach, it would take a combination of problems to cause blackouts during the summer in San Diego and the rest of Southern California, the utility officials said.

Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations for the California Independent System Operator, said temperatures in July and August are expected to be slightly above normal, so customers could be called on to conserve their power use.

"We really need people to pay attention as we move forward the next few weeks and into the summer,'' Schmitt said.

Customers should keep their eye on upcoming weather conditions and, on particularly hot days, take extra conservation steps, including not using appliances until after 6 p.m., turning off unneeded lights and setting the thermostat to at least 78 degrees, utility officials said.

Peak power usage during the summertime is between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., because customers are arriving home and turning on their air conditioners, industry is still running and most businesses are open, according to Niggli.

Caroline Winn, vice president of customer services for SDG&E, said the utility is offering a new program for residential and small business customers who heed the call for conservation. On days when the utility asks for usage reductions, customers who comply will receive a credit on their next bill, she said.

Customers who want to participate can sign up via sdge.com, using the "My Account'' tool, she said.

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