Last login: Thursday, December 16, 2010
Mr. Flacks takes a very optimistic view of the impact of the Powerlink and other Sempra-owned energy infrastructure on the future of Imperial County, San Diego County, and the Baja California border region. Sempra's existing energy assets in the region include the 1,250 MW Mesquite gas-fired plant in western Arizona and the 600 MW Mexicali plant, both of which connect directly to the Imperial Valley substation, the starting point of the Powerlink. Without even addressing the green power issue, it is reasonable to ask - in a country that holds market competition as the holy grail of economic development - whether granting even more monopoly power over energy supply to Sempra makes economic or common sense.
CPUC President Michael Peevey used raw political clout to override an administrative law judge's recommended denial of the project, and CPUC environmental review documents concluded that there are several better alternatives to the Powerlink, including a green power build-out in the San Diego area. SDG&E's army of attorneys have been unable to dismiss a major federal lawsuit against the project, precisely because of all the problems with the CPUC approval. The Powerlink will cost California utility ratepayers approximately $10 billion total in 2010 dollars over 40 years. This money will be made regardless of whether a single kilowatt-hr of electricity ever moves across the line. Presiding CPUC Commissioner Dian Grueneich voted against approving Powerlink because SDG&E refused to commit to putting any renewable energy on the line. SDG&E has not shown any interest in moving a substantial amount of Imperial County's geothermal resources over the Powerlink. SDG&E instead has stated for five years that the primary purpose of the Powerlink would be to import dish solar power from Imperial County. Dish solar projects in Texas and Arizona have already been cancelled due to high cost and questions about technological readiness. The Imperial Valley dish solar power project has just been suspended by the developer for lack of investors. The dish solar project has now been publicly revealed for what it has always been: a bait-and-switch. Sempra's fossil-fuel gas energy infrastructure will interconnect to the Powerlink the moment the line becomes operational. With the failure of the dish solar project, the line will provide a new pathway for Sempra's gas-fired generation. Local rooftop solar in the San Diego area is cheaper, quicker than cost of desert solar and the Powerlink combined. It is abundant and relatively untapped. For the cost of the 1,000 MW Powerlink we could develop more commercial rooftop solar capacity right in San Diego. If maximum economic development is the objective, maximum local solar power development is the road to success. Thank you Gloria and Maureen for exploring this controversy in some depth and not simply relying on SDG&E or Chamber of Commerce press releases to tell the story.Bill Powers, P.E., Powers Engineering
December 16, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.
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