Study finds Sempra cross-border project could cost 15,000 U.S. green jobs and $300 million in lost taxes; Sempra calls report “pure fiction”.

by on August 2, 2011 · 4 comments

in Economy, Energy, Environment, San Diego

Border fence near Jacumba, close to where the Sempra transmission line would be installed.

By Miriam Rafferty / East County Magazine / August 1, 2011

Sempra Energy has asked the U.S. Department of Energy for a presidential permit to construct a cross-border transmission line called Energia Sierra Juarez to import electricity from Sempra facilities in Mexico. The line would cross the border near Jacumba in San Diego’s East County.

Now a new report claims the project will cost jobs and loss of tax revenues in the U.S., particularly Imperial County, where the unemployment rate is the nation’s highest at 27.9%.

Sempra disputes the findings as “pure fiction.”

The study, “Should Green Jobs Be Outsourced: A Case Study of Lost Jobs and Lost Opportunities,” was authored by Dr. Peter Philips, professor of economics at the University of Utah. The study found that building renewable energy in Mexico instead of in California will result in loss of up to 15,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $300 million in lost local, state and federal tax revenue. View the full study .

 “The California State Building and Construction Trades Council calls on Secretary Chu to just say no to Sempra’s plan to outsource American jobs,” Council president Bob Balgenorth said, referring to the U.S. Energy Secretary.

 International Brother of Electrical workers Local 569 business manager Johnny Simpson agreed.

“With construction unemployment at its highest in a generation, we can’t afford to outsource even one construction job as Sempra is proposing to do.”

 But Scott Crider, spokesman for San Diego-based Sempra Energy, blasts the reports findings.

“This biased study was not an independent assessment of Energia Sierra Juarez,” he said. “It was paid for by labor unions opposed to the wind project, and the outrageous claims are pure fiction.”

 In reality, the first phase of Energia Sierra Juarez will create about 300 direct jobs on both sides of the border, Crider claims.

“ It will also bring hundreds of millions of dollars in clean tech investment to the region while producing enough clean, wind power for about 65,000 San Diego homes.”

He added, “Energia Sierra Juarez is just one small piece of the region’s overall energy puzzle that includes several new solar and wind projects in San Diego and Imperial Valley. Sempra Generation has created more than 1,000 real jobs in the U.S. through its investments in wind and solar.”

 View Sempra Energy’s website on the Energia Sierra Juarez project here .

Tim Kelley, president and chief executive officer of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. said in an interview with the Imperial Valley News that many Valley-based renewable projects are going through the pipeline.

“We’re not going to lose jobs because someone builds a project in Mexico,” he said, adding that the Valley is positioned to be able to transmit northwest to Los Angeles and Orange County, as well as east to Arizona or even south to Mexico, in addition to San Diego (if the Sunrise Powerlink is built).

But some others are questioning whether the line needs to be built at all.

“The stated goal of the Obama administration is to create jobs and become energy independent. Exporting jobs to Mexico to import foreign produced energy from a Sempra wind project does neither,” said Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Group and a plaintiff in lawsuits seeking to block the Sunrise Powerlink transmission lines on the U.S. side of the border.

 “Bottom line: There is no need for any of these industrial scale remote wind or solar projects,” she wrote in an e-mail to ECM regarding the latest study. “With the economic downtown and new energy efficiency and conservation efforts, less energy is needed,” she added, noting that “point of use renewable energy projects are being incorporated into new buildings and added to existing structures and facilities, including UCSD water treatment operations and military bases, to reduce energy consumption from the grid and the higher energy rates that go with them.”

 Tisdale cites documents presented at an Environmental Protection Agency “Good Neighbor Environmental Board meeting” in San Diego on June 16 to bolster her argument:

The following related power point presentations were made to the EPA’s June 16th Good Neighbor Environmental Board meeting in San Diego:

Nicole Capretz at Environmental Health Coalition: Local Solar for jobs

Bill Powers / Powers Engineering summary of SDGE /Sempra cross border energy plans

Woman owned company presentation on all their point of use renewable energ projects

More point of use project details and photos from their website

My presentation on adverse impacts from remote rural projects

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

mr.rick August 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

Some one should just figure out and promote small scale solar. Eveery one has panels atop their dwelling. I’m not super smart, but this is where we are headed, so we might as well get it on.


dave rice August 2, 2011 at 6:49 pm

It’s happening in developing countries who missed the first hundred years of the technological revolution and never developed a power grid in the first place. Individual solar panels trickle-charging a bank of batteries, with small diesel generators providing backup power.

I was talking with some guys at the IBEW a couple weeks ago when they rolled out the first solar-powered electric vehicle chargers and I joined a small group touring their rooftop solar facilities. It seems they think the biggest drawback to individual systems is that the best you can hope for is a “net zero” effect – where you send as much power into the grid during the day as you draw off of it at night. The utilities pay less for your excess power than you pay when you’re out of juice, and if you pump more into the grid than you draw out, they just take the extra for free and pay you nothing. The electricity gurus seem to think that’s really a demotivator for people thinking about small-scale projects.

The funny thing is that solar as it’s set up now tends to benefit the rich, who use tons of power to heat and cool giant houses. The lower classes tend to have smaller homes, conserve more, and thus they pay less for power on the ‘baseline’ sliding scale, so it’s much more difficult to recoup the initial investment in the system.


mr.rick August 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Heard on NPR that 2 billion people are getting electricity now and 2 billion waiting in the wings.Personal use solar would be more or less portable as befits the “Poor” life style. But some one has to design and make the individual cells. Maybe it could be the US?Proabably not,the way corporate America works. Maybe we could legistslate a home grown product for use in this country. Jobs and electricity at the same time. Am I just trippin’ or what?I suppose not having to pay for juice would have to suffice for a while.


Citizen Cane August 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

No mention of generating electricity from the massive tidal swings in the Sea of Cortez. Plus here’s a concept….how about Mexican electricity for Mexico?

And here’s the main reason I wouldn’t build a cross-border power line at Jacumba:


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