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As O.C. Energy Demand Triples, SDG&E Seeks to Upgrade Infrastructure

Utility asks PUC for permission to upgrade service and build a controversial new substation in San Juan Capistrano.

Citing a surge in electricity demand, SDG&E filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday for a project designed to improve service.

San Diego Gas & Electric said the upgrade, which includes , would improve service to San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and unincorporated areas of South Orange County.

"The energy demand in Orange County has more than tripled over the last 26 years,'' said Michael R. Niggli, the utility's president and chief operating officer. "By upgrading our transmission and substation infrastructure in this area, SDG&E not only will increase reliability, but also provide additional capacity and flexibility for meeting our customers' needs.''

The South Orange County Reliability Enhancement project would cost $450 million to $500 million, said Duane Cave, a spokesman for the utility. But nearly half the cost would be spread to all of the state's customers, so ratepayers would not see an increase in their bills, according to Cave, who said it would amount to less than a penny more for each customer.

The project would upgrade power lines connecting to substations in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. The utility would also rebuild a 1950s-era substation and .

Transmission lines at the San Clemente substation near Camp Pendleton would also be redone.

Demand for electricity, fueled by the proliferation of new technological gadgets, has the utility's system at near capacity, officials said. A sudden surge in demand from a heat wave might prove too much for the system to handle, they said.

If the commission approves the project, construction could start by the end of 2013 and be done by 2017, officials said.

It typically takes the commission about 18 months to make a ruling, Cave said.

-- City News Service

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