San Diego Engineer Questions SDG&E's Push For Power

Monday, September 15, 2014
By Erik Anderson

San Diego's ongoing heat wave is pushing power consumption to a summertime peak, but there seems to be ample power and that's prompting some to question the utility's power planning efforts.

San Diego Gas & Electric is asking for proposals that would generate another 500 to 800 megawatts of locally produced power, saying it's needed to replace power that used to be generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station.

But engineer Bill Powers doesn't believe it.

"San Onofre initially goes down in 2012," Powers said. "In the first six months of 2012, within 80 miles of San Onofre, 2,000 megawatts of natural gas fired plants came online."

The San Onofre plant produced about 2,100 megawatts when it was up and running.

"Since that time, even more have come online. At the same time, in the same period, 3,000-plus megawatts of renewable energy came online," Powers said.

SDG&E constantly projects a sharp increase in demand for power, justifying new projects. However, Powers said demand has stayed flat for a decade.

Building infrastructure for new power plants is a key moneymaker for the utility, according to Powers, and he said that's why the utility pushes for new energy generation.

San Diego Gas And Electric's Jim Avery said that is not the case, because the utility is developing more local generation capacity at the direction of state regulators.

He argues that the renewable energy that came online since San Onofre closed isn't around-the-clock reliable like natural gas fired plants and he said the natural gas plants built in the last few years in the Los Angeles basin don't replace the power generated by the now closed nuclear plant.

Avery did concede that the nuclear generated electricity from San Onofre wasn't considered locally generated power.