California Public Utilities Commissioners voted 4-1 today to allow a $1.9-billion transmission power line in San Diego to go forward.
The CPUC agreed that the line is needed to move renewable power from inland deserts to the power-hungry cities along the coasts, while environmental advocates challenged that characterization. Environmentalists argued against allowing towers to be built through environmentally sensitive areas of San Diego County and through Cleveland National Forest, and further argued that the new line would allow SDG&E to bring over power from south of the border, where power could be produced using more lenient environmental standards.
On the other hand, some environmentalists have argued that the new power line will allow large scale solar power plants in the desert and further east to reach the population centers that need that clean energy.
A detailed drawing of the power line shows that the line will run east-west across northern San Diego County to Imperial county, and then down towards the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The decision will allow San Diego Gas & Electric Co. to use ratepayer funds to erect over 120 miles of new high-voltage lines.
In the midst of budget chaos, Blagojevich madness, and Paris Hilton escapades, this is one of those policy decisions that may land deep on page A17 in the remaining papers delivered to remaining doorsteps, but it may also have lasting environmental impact. As I've argued before, the era of long-distance energy should come to an end, and the CPUC should be encouraging more local development of renewables rather than supporting energy policies that encourage energy generated in one location which then travels across long distances to reach its destination. We would be better off if local communities built and controlled local renewable power, which can be delivered efficiently.
Why do I think local communities should make these decisions? Does anyone think it's a good idea that the decision about what is good for San Diego was made in San Francisco?