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Powerlink: Compare the Alternatives
Back in April the ETA held a forum on the Sunrise Powerlink.
Since that time I have been trying to get the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to help me understand the playing field.
It is very curious that the CPUC originally directed me to have SDG&E address my questions. My questions were about the CPUC's role and authority, not about the specifics of the Powerlink. I eventually went back to the CPUC with my questions and they still remain substantially unanswered. I don't think I will make more progress without great effort.
Given what I can only cautiously piece together, here are a few of my recommendations for public policy related to power infrastructure:
The decision to endorse or oppose the Powerlink should be based on a comparative analysis among many different alternatives. Alternatives should be placed side-by-side and each given serious consideration.
No Guaranteed Profits for Utility Monopolies
Many promises are being made by SDG&E. Their early promises have already been rolled back after they were scrutinized. The Powerlink's purported financial benefits have repeatedly been revised downward on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.
SDG&E should have to deliver the promised benefits (not the project) at the cost that they promise today. That should be part of the deal.
As it is now, it appears that it is up to the public and the California Public Utility Commission to determine if SDG&E's claims are reasonable and then we have to hope they keep their promises.
It would be better to let the shareholders of the company hold the ultimate responsibility for getting this project right.
If the benefits are not delivered ratepayers should not be paying increased costs without the promised benefits*. I would like to see market forces working to ensure a good project. Shareholders should have to pay the increased costs if the benefits are not delivered.
* This is the main issue I was trying to get the CPUC to explain. I can't confirm it and the CPUC seems uninterested in denying that ratepayers could get stuck paying even if the promised benefits are not delivered.