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Cities Weigh In On How To Replace San Onofre Power

Photo caption:

Photo credit: dolanh / Flickr

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

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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