At the beginning of a month-long California Public Utilities Commission hearing on San Diego Gas & Electric\u2019s proposed Sunrise Powerlink transmission project, utility officials called the project \u201cessential.\u201d Consumer advocates, however, questioned whether the utility could guarantee that it would stay within the project\u2019s $1.3 billion price forecast. \u201cIn the past five years our customer demand has increased by over 1,000 MW,\u201d stated Mike Niggli, SDG&E chief operating officer. He said the project is \u201cfirst and foremost\u201d about reliability, adding that the line would help the utility comply with regulators\u2019 requirements to use renewable energy. The utility most recently characterized the cost of the project at $1.3 billion--down from $1.4 billion. Michael Shames, Utility Consumers\u2019 Action Network executive director, questioned that number. He noted that there could be cost overruns and that any costs would be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not state regulators. \u201cThere is very little the California Public Utilities Commission could do if the project turned out to be more expensive than SDG&E projects,\u201d Shames stated. Shames also noted that the project could bring in out-of-state coal-fired power, as well as renewable energy. The Sunrise project is slated to be a 500 kV, 150-mile line running from the Imperial Valley into the San Diego Basin.