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Transmit Vital Energy: The Only Way To Quench California's Thirst For Electricity: Install More Power Lines

Mar 21, 2008
As temperatures climbed to triple digits across California recently, utilities faced their first challenge of the year to secure energy supplies and keep the lights on. Indeed, the state's power grid operator called the year's first Stage 1 emergency as utilities dipped low into California's electricity reserves as the demand for power surged.

Fortunately, blackouts were avoided because Californians did their part and responded quickly to calls for conservation. And according to industry forecasts, we had just enough electricity to get us through the summer months. That's the good news for California residents.

High Temps Tax Grid

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that we'll be this lucky next summer, or in the years to come. Not only are temperatures predicted to rise over the next decade, but according to a recent study by the California Department of Finance, the state's population is expected to grow to nearly 60 million by 2050 -- an increase of 74 percent during a 50-year period.

As the temperatures and population continue to trend upward, so will our state's demand for energy. This new demand will further strain our already-taxed energy grid, jeopardizing energy supplies. And as our electricity infrastructure becomes increasingly more burdened and demand begins to outgrow supply, consumers can also expect to pay more for power.

Boost State Capacity

So, how can we safeguard our state's energy future? We must start investing in new power lines today. The California Energy Commission (http://www.energy.ca.gov/), the California Independent System Operator and the U.S. Department of Energy have all stressed the need for new transmission to strengthen California's energy grid and ensure reliable energy supplies.

The energy commission has also cited California's lack of transmission as a significant impediment to accessing new sources of energy, such as solar and wind power, which can help meet increased demand and improve our environment.

Luckily, several new transmission projects have already been proposed and are currently under review by the California Public Utilities Commission. One of these is a project called the Sunrise Powerlink (http//www.sunrisepowerlink.com). The Sunrise Powerlink transmission line would be located in the San Diego region, an area recently designated by the DOE as one of two draft national interest electric transmission corridors because of its lack of energy infrastructure and its economic importance to the entire state.

So, why is a transmission project in San Diego important to all Californians? New transmission lines, regardless of where they're built, help relieve the burden on existing lines, bolstering the state's energy grid and improving reliability and market stability for all energy customers.

Approve Powerlink

San Diego is also near the Imperial Valley, an area rich in renewable-energy potential. Unfortunately, much of this green power currently remains untapped because of the lack of transmission to deliver it where it's needed.

If approved, the Sunrise Powerlink would access vast supplies of solar, wind and geothermal energy, helping California meet its goals of increasing the use of renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

By approving new transmission projects, the California Public Utilities Commission can help our state make significant strides toward a safe, reliable and clean energy future. With any luck, someday we may not have to hold our breath when the mercury starts to rise.
About the Author
William J. Keese served as Chairman of the California Energy Commission from March 1997, when he was initially appointed by Governor Pete Wilson, until his retirement on April 30, 2005. He is a major supporter of the Sunrise Powerlink initiative. Find out more at http://www.sdge.com/sunrisepowerlink/
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