September 9, 2009 (San Diego)--Assembly Member Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego) urged the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to collaborate with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and other stakeholders in developing a long-term distributed generation strategy to reduce the risk of wildfire and provide safe power generation in case of emergencies.
Saldaña’s made her recommendations in a letter to the CPUC in advance of their decision on the fate of San Diego Gas and Electric’s proposal to shut-off power to areas of San Diego County prone to wildfire.
Saldaña said she believes SDG&E’s shut-off plan is both flawed and dangerous and reflects a cynical legal strategy more than any good-faith effort to address the risk of wildfire in San Diego’s back country.
“I believe the utility’s proposed shut-off plan is both punitive to those ratepayers most affected by wildfires and an attempt to shift any future liability for SDG&E’s failure to address well-established fire danger posed by their transmission lines,” she said.
Saldaña wrote that, rather than increasing safety in the fire-prone areas of the County, the shut-off proposal will likely exacerbate the danger by hindering firefighting, rescue services, emergency communication, and evacuation efforts throughout the affected areas, while also posing a serious threat to the lives and health of residents dependent on medical equipment.
She encouraged the CPUC, SDG&E, the County of San Diego, ratepayers and other stakeholders instead to work toward developing an accelerated renewable distributed generation strategy for San Diego’s back country.
She said she knew of at least one existing proposal that could serve as a springboard for discussion between the parties.
“Stand-alone solar and wind generation will provide safer sources of energy for fire-prone areas,” she said. “Renewable-generated batteries for storing energy could also provide residents with power in emergency and high-demand conditions.”
Saldaña cited additional benefits that would include bringing the utility closer to compliance with AB 32 renewable requirements, creating jobs in a time of high unemployment, and providing a stimulus to the local economy.
The Commission is scheduled to vote on the shut-off plan this Thursday.