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Cities Weigh In On How To Replace San Onofre Power

Credit: dolanh / Flickr

The silhouette of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, April 12, 2012.

Aired 1/8/14 on KPBS News.

The city of Solana Beach votes Wednesday night on whether to formally oppose building new fossil fuel power plants in San Diego to make up for the loss of San Onofre’s nuclear power.

Solana Beach could become the next city to register opposition to SDG&E's plans to use natural gas to help cover the 400 megawatts of nuclear power lost when San Onofre shut down.

The cities of Encinitas and Del Mar already have written to California's Public Utilities Commission to support the Sierra Club, which opposes the fossil fuel option.

SDG&E has received preliminary approval to resurrect a new gas-powered plant that was rejected last year. The CPUC might reverse itself and approve the Pio Pico plant in the South Bay, citing San Onofre's closure as the reason for its change of heart.

SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan said the company needs to use all its options, and the Pio Pico plant would be able to generate up to 300 megawatts of power. It would be a "peaker" plant, used to generate energy only at times of peak demand. Donovan said SDG&E also is developing new wind and solar energy, but that will not be enough.

"Which is why we need to maintain some traditional, base-load natural gas-fired power plants," she said, "as well as all of the renewables, and these peaker units, such as Pio Pico, that will help provide the stability of the grid and the reliability of the system overall."

But Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner said her city council will consider sending a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, urging them not to approve the new gas-powered plant.

"There's all sorts of capacity for clean energy that will be able to take up the slack," she said. "It's not in SDG&E's financial plan to have solar rooftops in their portfolio as a generator, because they can't control it."

The Sierra Club argument is that, if Pio Pico is approved, other gas-powered plants that have been rejected as unnecessary could be approved, making it more difficult for the region to meet its goals of cutting down on pollution.

The group has released a new poll that suggests a majority of customers in San Diego would prefer a plan that uses only clean, renewable energy sources and more energy efficiency in Southern California

Another new gas-powered plant is in the works in Carlsbad, where the Encina power plant will shut down in 2017.

The PUC will consider Pio Pico plant in the South Bay on Feb. 5.

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Avatar for user 'PeteHasapopoulos'

PeteHasapopoulos | January 8, 2014 at 8 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

To their credit, the City of Del Mar also sent a letter to the Utilities Commission opposing more natural gas plants and supporting local clean energy. SDG&E thinks the closure of San Onofre has granted them entry to an all the fossil fuels you can eat buffet with electricity customers (residential, business, schools) paying the bill. The proposed Pio Pico Plant would cost SDG&E customers, whether you live in Fallbrook, Poway, or Chula Vista $1.6 billion. We would get ramped up greenhouse gas emissions, dirtier air, and only 15 permanent jobs out of the deal. Pio Pico is the first domino in SDG&E's scheme. They are looking to do upwards of another $6 billion in power plant construction around our region, all with the same harmful effects. The simple truth is, we do not need these power plants. San Onofre has been down about 2 years and we have not had related blackouts, in no small part because our local clean energy sector, such as rooftop/parking lot solar and energy efficiency upgrades, is thriving---and creating lots of local good paying jobs.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | January 8, 2014 at 9:38 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Let's cross our fingers. This is a great opportunity for the San Diego region to leave fossil fuels behind (where they belong --in the past) and to start out on the path that so many European countries (like Germany) have taken successfully. Renewable energy technologies! That's the wave of the future!

I say cross our fingers because didn't our Public Utilities Commission stand shoulder to shoulder with Enron (now bankrupt because of fraud) when they engaged in market manipulation (according to the Feds, a few years after the fact) about a dozen years ago?

I'd love a follow-up story on the Public Utilities Commission to see if they represent the interests of citizens and consumers (as they are supposed to) or id they twist their mission to side with the industry directors and stockholders.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 8, 2014 at 10:32 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

RegularChristian - Besides nuclear, what non-fossil fuel sources could possibly provide enough energy for San Diego now and into the future? There is no viable solution. None.

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Avatar for user 'JayPowell'

JayPowell | January 8, 2014 at 10:56 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

to "Jean Marc/RegularChristian": There is a conservative estimate of 7,000 Mega Watts of roof top and parking lot covered solar electric power in San Diego County. That is over 3 times what San Onofre was producing. The electric battery and other storage technologies are advancing at a rapid rate. They will become cost competitive if we insist that the PUC have investor owned utilities (IOUs) invest in them. The PUC has told IOUs to bring on 1,350 Megawatts of storage in the next few years. If San Onofre is such a crisis for Southern California ( and we know it is clearly not a "crisis" since it has been offline for two years...), why not put the majority of that mandated storage in the Northern San Diego load pocket near San Onofre? It would help with voltage stability for the entire southern California grid and promote even more roof top and parking lot solar while eliminating the need for more polluting fossil fueled plants. Power with the Sun is the future.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 8, 2014 at 11:44 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

JayPowell what about when it is not sunny? Also how much will all these solar panels and batteries and infrastructure cost to build and maintain?

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | January 8, 2014 at 5:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

JAY: I agree with your vision.

I went solar several years ago and haven't paid an electric bill since.

The trick is in sizing the solar panel array so as not to overbuy panels. I looked at batteries to store extra electricity generated, but batteries are a whole other "animal." They require maintenance and safety precautions (unless in the last few years they have become as easy and maintenance free as the PV panels).

Prices are going down and there are now easy ways to "finance" through power purchase agreements, which require much lower out of pocket costs.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 10, 2014 at 9:31 a.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Well regardless of whatever her fate may be, we will always have this :

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