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Engineer questions SDG&E's $3B project in East County San Diego

"Poles don't cause the fires,” said Bill Powers, an engineer with power system experience. “It's the wires that hit each other and touch tree limbs."

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — When it comes to outrage over these high bills, CBS 8 is as "Amped Up" as you are and we aren't letting this go, continuing to demand answers for you, until we get them. And if you’d like to give your feedback to SDG&E, you can do so by CLICKING HERE. If you’d like to file a complaint with CPUC, click here.

San Diego Gas & Electric ramped up their prices and now customers are amped up. So why are electricity prices in our county higher than any other part of the state? In some cases, much higher? 

A local engineer points to a $3.8 billion project in East County San Diego.

SDG&E is spending the money for hardening their system in the backcountry to prevent fires. They've replaced wood poles with steel and buried lines underground. And while SDG&E is proud of their efforts, not everyone is excited about it.

"Poles don't cause the fires,” said Bill Powers. “It's the wires that hit each other and touch tree limbs and that type of thing.”

Powers is an engineer with power system experience and he calls SDG&E's $3-billion project - “a boondoggle.” 

"$3 billion with 30,000 meters out there - anyone can do the math and go ‘my god - that's so much money per customer,’” said Powers.  

He said what SDG&E should have done is given everyone in the far East County a solar system. That way when the winds kick up the power company could shut off the electricity through its wires and everyone would still have power. And, he adds, it would have been a lot cheaper.  

CBS 8 reached out to SDG&E Sunday and were told because it was the weekend, they had no one available to comment.  Earlier this week, the utility told CBS 8 that since the hardening of their lines after 2007 wildfires - which were started by their powerlines - the utility has not been responsible for igniting any fires.  

"Sure it's to protect us, but if you have those 30,000 customers put these systems on - we're just as protected. In fact, we're more protected because then the utility can shut that system off whenever the slightest breeze occurs and the customers will never know it,” Powers said.  

He said the reason SDG&E went the more expensive route is because capital improvement projects can be passed on to customers. 

“The ratepayers are going to pay for all of this, but the shareholders are going to benefit from it because profit comes out of these types of projects,” said Powers.  

Powers' advice? Keep the pressure on SDG&E and hound your elected state leaders to let them know that this is not acceptable. 

"It's good that - especially in San Diego - people are up in arms because if you don't like what's going on now - you better strap on your seatbelt because it's going to get a whole lot more expensive very quickly,” Powers said. 

WATCH RELATED: A closer look at the CPUC board members who approve SDG&E rate hikes


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