'Peaker' Plant To Replace Carlsbad's Power Station
The California Public Utilities Commission approved Thursday a new gas-powered "peaker" plant in Carlsbad to replace almost a quarter of the electricity lost when San Onofre shut down. Opponents say the decision misses an opportunity to move toward more sustainable energy sources.
CPUC commissioners called Thursday's decision a “close call.” President Michael Picker said he woke up early in the morning thinking about the vote.
The decision was 4-1 to approve the Carlsbad Energy Center, a “peaker” plant that can produce up to 500 megawatts of energy.
Thursday's decision came despite bids SDG&E has received from renewable energy companies offering to fill the power gap.
Commissioner Mike Florio said the combination of losing San Onofre and the Encina power plant, which is due to close in 2017, has created an unexpectedly large need for new sources of power.
“We all agree we are moving toward a clean energy future,” he said. “The question is, how much risk do we take in that process?”
Florio said the Carlsbad peaker plant would get the region through the "next 5, 10 or 15 years” until California is confident it can support the electrical grid with renewable energy sources, better storage and consumer demand management.
Commissioner Catherine Sandoval cast the lone "no" vote.
She questioned the decision since the power lost when the Encina plant shuts down in 2017 is already replaced with the new Pio Pico peaker plant in Otay Mesa. Commissioners approved that plant in February 2014.
She said she may file a dissent.
In a statement, the Sierra Club said it was disappointed and frustrated by the decision.
Matt Vespa of the Sierra Club called it “more of the same" from the CPUC.
“What they did (Thursday) will lock San Diego into paying for a multi-billion-dollar gas plant, a proposal that was drafted behind closed doors,” he wrote in a statement. “By allowing this gas plant to be built, we are stifling San Diego's clean energy potential, job growth, and ambitious efforts to reduce pollution that exacerbates health issues and climate change.”
Vespa said the Sierra Club intends to appeal the decision.