Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smart Energy Solutions for San Diego (No Sunrise Powerlinks Need Apply)

This is an adaptation of a post originally made on the Desert Protective Council's DesertBlog.

One reason that activists in San Diego may find it hard to focus on forward-thinking solutions to environmental problems, urban design issues, social justice issues, and sustainability issues -- the kind of topics discussed on San Diego-Tijuana Design Plant Harvest -- is that our policy makers and corporations keep coming up with backward-looking, wasteful and unnecessary schemes that do more to enrich corporations than to solve any particular problem. Activists then need to spend energy and resources battling these boondoggles, and explaining the dirty reality behind the greenwashed veneer, rather than working for positive change.

The Sunrise Powerlink is one example of this syndrome. Billed by SDG&E as an environmentally friendly way to bring renewable energy to San Diego, this proposed 150-mile transmission line that would stretch from Imperial Valley to San Diego (and beyond) is not the clean green machine its supporters would have us believe. Instead, it is really just a smokescreen for SDG&E/Sempra's ultimate goal of completing a fossil fuel loop from western Baja, east to Mexicali, and then north to Los Angeles. Sunrise Powerlink means more pollution for the border region, destruction of San Diego's backcountry, and greater costs for utility consumers. Fortunately, in this case there are real, forward-thinking solutions that will bring us true green energy, produced locally. These ideas are contained in the "San Diego Smart Energy 2020" report, and exemplified by Southern California Edison's local solar initiative, mentioned in the original post that follows:

“That’s so San Diego!” This was my wife’s response to Dean Calbreath's excellent column in the U-T, comparing SDG&E's proposed Sunrise Powerlink with Southern California Edison's plan for locally generated solar power from photovoltaic panels. In particular, she was responding to the article’s conclusion that solar power delivered by the Sunrise Powerlink would cost almost twice as much as locally generated solar ($6 per watt vs. $3.85 per watt). Gee, what does that remind you of? Maybe the Chargers ticket guarantee, energy deregulation, or the city’s underfunded pension plan?

In addition to the cost comparison, Calbreath’s article covered most of the other bases, and he relies on quite a bit of documented evidence: San Diego does in fact have ample sunshine (SDG&E says the sun never shines here) and ample rooftop space for photovoltaic panels (SDG&E veep Mike Niggli says there are no buildings in San Diego). Niggli also dramatically overstates the cost of rooftop solar. SDG&E wants us to believe the only alternatives to the Sunrise Powerlink are static electricity or “weasel power.” (Seriously! Just check YouTube.)

The worst part of this is that SDG&E has made similar promises on renewable energy in the past, but failed to deliver. When it was pushing for the Southwest Powerlink in the early '80s, SDG&E claimed it would bring renewable geothermal energy from Imperial Valley to San Diego. Today, the Southwest Powerlink carries less than 5% renewable power, the rest of its capacity having been filled up with power from fossil fuel and other non-renewable sources, including from plants just across the border in Mexicali. You know the saying: "Fool me once..."

The article leaves open the question of why SDG&E hasn’t pursued local solar more aggressively. Why does the company keep ridiculously overestimating the costs and underestimating the capacity of local solar? Perhaps the company isn’t really interested in pursuing renewable energy at all? Perhaps what it really wants is to complete one more section of parent company Sempra’s original “Full Loop” for fossil fuel energy?

The real question at this point is why the expensive and destructive Sunrise Powerlink is still on the table as an energy option for San Diego, especially when there are so many better options out there. As comments from San Diego County’s land use department pointed out, “It is unclear why this alternative was selected" as the main alternative in the recently published Draft Environmental Impact Report, given its large toll on the environment. Could the fact that this bad project refuses to die be a result of the usual alliance of San Diego power brokers pursuing anything but the civic interest?

Let’s see, city officials and Chamber types getting behind a “solution” that is the most environmentally damaging, the most wasteful, the least secure, and the most expensive for the average citizen, but the one that enriches the wealthiest corporation in our region — that’s SO San Diego.

For real solutions for clean energy, go to www.sdsmartenergy.org.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Weekly Share 2008-04-04

This was composed using Google Docs, which automates posting the doc to the blog, using Firefox 3 beta 5 on an 8-year-old Sony subnotebook. I'm blown away by how easy it was (I exaggerate a bit--I doubt I'll go this crazy in the future--if I keep this up).


Food & Water

Urban Design

Collaboration (media & politics)


SDTJDPH-family blogs updated or modified

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