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Just a Hole in the Ground reads, “Above ground utilities are the single biggest threat to our public safety.” The proponents of undergrounding use fear to motivate voters to approve the ballot measure. The proponents want to bury SoCal Edison’s 19th century power lines and pass the costs onto property owners and Laguna’s retail sector through bond measures approved by voters, but their headline is false and unsubstantiated. Statistical data show the top three greatest threats to public safety are falls, poisonings and motor vehicles not utilities, the occasional gas-burp from Bluebird Substation notwithstanding.  

As long [as] property owners are asked to pay for a $200 million 30-year commitment to dig a hole and bury obsolete utilities, it is prudent to review what to bury in the hole. Over time technology shifts are disruptive and largely unpredictable like the smart car, the smart phone, like distributed renewable power. How these technologies play out is uncertain, but the future will arrive and now is the time to study how renewable power will enter the value chain, define operating models and business in Laguna Beach. Solar energy systems worldwide have been consistently underestimated by the EIA (US Energy Information Administration). In Laguna, solar power utilities were not considered when undergrounding citywide.

The annualized cost of $200 million to underground power lines at three percent for 30 years is $10.2 million per year – alternatively this funding could be directed to build Laguna’s sustainable energy future for 2050. If Laguna became a clean power producer and sold power back to utility companies, SoCal Edison would happily bury their power lines at their cost not ours. UndergroundLagunaNow should propose a modern power utility rather than bury obsolete utilities, propose sustainability not creative financing, [and] motivate voter approval with facts, not public fear. 

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

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