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Future Of Carlsbad Power Plant Remains In Limbo

Photo caption:

Photo by Alison St John

The Encina Power Station operates on the beach in Carlsbad, December 2011.

The iconic smokestack of the Encina power plant is set to be torn down if a new gas-powered plant is approved to replace it. But two state agencies are involved, and more is at stake than just the view from Interstate 5.

Future Of Carlsbad Power Plant Remains In Limbo

GUESTS:

Bill Powers, member, Protect Our Communities Foundation

Alison St John, North County bureau chief, KPBS

Transcript

The iconic smokestack of the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad is set to be torn down — pending approval of a new gas-powered energy plant. But two state agencies are involved, and more is at stake than just the view from Interstate 5.

Under an agreement reached last year involving the city of Carlsbad, San Diego Gas & Electric and NRG Energy, the 400-foot smokestack would come down and a new gas-powered plant would be built in its place.

That pleases Carlsbad Deputy Mayor Keith Blackburn.

“We’re just a 40-square-mile city,” Blackburn said Wednesday at a state Energy Commission panel hearing in Carlsbad. “And when we have this kind of acreage on the beach that’s taken up by a big cement power plant that was built in the early '50s, I just would rather have that landmark be beautiful open space.”

The Energy Commission has already approved the plan.

Carlsbad Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio said most residents are ready for the change.

“They’re excited about seeing the visual blight from Encina removed,” Barberio said. “Something we’ve lived with for over 50 years.”

But other Carlsbad residents at the hearing weren’t convinced the change would be an improvement.

Arnold Roe of Power of Vision, a community group, showed computer-generated images of how the site would look from I-5 after the freeway has been widened. The smokestack is gone, replaced by towering electrical transmission lines that would carry power from the new gas-powered plant that NRG would build. Also gone are the trees that mask the lower-profile industrial buildings on the site.

NRG officials said the foliage would be restored as much as possible and called the renderings misleading.

These concerns may be moot if the California Public Utilities Commission does not vote to approve a contract SDG&E has signed with NRG to purchase up to 600 megawatts of energy from the new plant, which would supply electricity during periods of high demand for power.

A PUC administrative law judge issued a tentative ruling last month that said SDG&E should not be given the go ahead before considering bids from others offering more sustainable and cleaner sources of energy.

Many environmental groups are opposed to building new peaker gas plants in San Diego like the one planned in Carlsbad. They say state law calls for a shift to more sustainable energy.

The debate over how to replace the 2,200 megawatts of power generated by the now shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant will be part of the PUC's decision. SDG&E has said the Carlsbad plant would help cover some of that power loss.

The iconic smokestack of the Encina power plant is set to be torn down if a new gas-powered plant is approved to replace it. But two state agencies are involved, and more is at stake than just the view from Interstate 5.

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