SDG&E Estimates Sunrise Powerlink at Half Earlier Savings

By Published On: February 2, 2007

In a revised filing with state regulators, San Diego Gas & Electric estimates that its proposed $1.3 billion transmission line would accrue $220 million a year in benefits for all those who use the California Independent System Operator grid. Its original figure was $447 million in savings. Last month, the utility’s revisions of the project benefits were far lower – at $85 million a year (Circuit, Jan. 26, 2006). In its January 26 filing at the California Public Utilities Commission, SDG&E maintains that “the Sunrise Powerlink is the best solution” to looming supply shortages and its ability to use more renewable energy. The commission must approve the project. If built, it will be managed by the grid operator. Consumer groups want to postpone the line, if not derail it completely. The utility’s filing addressed the Utility Consumers’ Action Network’s and others’ alternative options to building the 150-mile 500 kV line. Some ideas, such as redirecting power through other transmission lines, were deemed “infeasible” by the utility. Others, such as building new in-basin power plants, were not judged – although their effects on pollution were noted. UCAN executive director Michael Shames noted that his organization’s alternatives evaluated in the filing drew much the same conclusions that the utility offered regulators. Those include technical difficulties such as disconnections, restarts, and building much shorter, smaller transmission lines to link up the existing grid. Of the proposed alternatives considered feasible, the one given top billing by Powerlink opponents because it would use existing lines is a transmission project called “Mexico Lite.” It would redirect power through the Imperial Valley-La Rosita and Tijuana-Otay Mesa lines. “Mexico Lite doesn’t, by itself, replace Sunrise – UCAN never suggested that it would – but it does defer the need for Sunrise. That’s worth a lot of money, because the early years are when Sunrise ratepayer costs are highest and claimed benefits are lowest,” noted Shames. If that alternative delays the need for the transmission line until 2014, the net present value of a four-year delay of a $1.3 billion project is over $270 million, Shames estimates. SDG&E expects that the San Diego area will have a reliability need beginning in 2010, with a deficiency of 247 MW. The utility believes that the line could bring in renewable power from the Inland desert. The line “will liberate that region’s rich renewable energy potential, and is necessary to ensure that the state can meet its mandated renewable goals in the most cost-effective manner,” the filing noted. Meanwhile, the utility is expecting low amounts of peak shavings from its demand-response programs. SDG&E estimates 52 (n)MW of response in 2010 and 47 (n)MW in 2015, holding steady at 47 (n)MW in 2020. The utility expects that only approximately 60 percent of actual enrolled negawatts are realized when events are called. – J.A. Savage

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