The northern portion of San Diego Gas & Electric’s network needs to be upgraded in order to replace aging equipment, increase capacity, and reduce the possibility of power outages, the utility says in a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission. The May 18 filing requests that SDG&E be allowed to proceed with what the utility calls its South Orange County Reliability Enhancement project, an undertaking that would upgrade and reconfigure existing transmission lines, as well as rebuild one substation in the area while adding another. “The project is expected to cost approximately $450-$500 million dollars,” SDG&E spokesperson Jennifer Ramp said. “Once approval is received, construction could start late 2013 and conclude in 2017.” SDG&E’s South Orange County service area, located in the part of Orange County that’s outside Southern California Edison territory, has more than 129,000 electric customers, according to the utility. The area represents about 10 percent of SDG&E’s total customer load of about 5,000 MW. “The energy demand in Orange County has more than tripled over the last 26 years,” SDG&E president Michael Niggli stated. “By upgrading our transmission and substation infrastructure in this area, SDG&E not only will increase reliability, but also provide additional capacity and flexibility for meeting our customers’ needs.” The reliability project would take place within the cities of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, as well as unincorporated areas of San Diego County. SDG&E’s proposal is broken into multiple components, including: -Upgrading transmission lines connecting substations in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente by replacing an existing 138 kv transmission line with a new 230 kv double-circuit line; -Rebuilding a 1950s-era 138 kv/12 kv substation and building a new substation in San Juan Capistrano to improve regional reliability and capacity; -Reconfiguring existing 138 kv transmission lines at a substation located on undeveloped land at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, which borders San Diego and Orange counties; -Realigning existing 69 kV and 138 kV transmission lines near the Talega Substation; and -Relocating three existing 138 kV transmission lines. Another component involves replacing 86 wooden poles with 80 steel poles that can withstand winds of up to 85 MPH, something that the utility says could help prevent wildfires. Such fires have caused major issues for SDG&E in the past. It was in the fall of 2007 that wildfires killed two people and destroyed about 1,300 homes in northeast San Diego County. A state investigation eventually determined that SDG&E power lines that had been downed by high winds were to blame.