The California Energy Commission approved construction of the 558 MW Carlsbad Energy Center May 31. \u201cBottom line is we need power plants close to where San Onofre is,\u201d commission chair Bob Weisenmiller said. \u201cWhat we\u2019ve found is that without San Onofre, it really reduces the amount of power that can be imported into San Diego from the Los Angeles basin,\u201d he said. \u201cAnd that really has significant reliability impacts.\u201d At full capacity, San Onofre, which is operated and primarily owned by Southern California Edison, is able to provide about 20 percent of San Diego County\u2019s energy. Weisenmiller said the Energy Commission is now conducting contingency planning for a summer without the coastal facility--which lies 25 miles north of Carlsbad. \u201cIf you look at the fleet of nuclear plants in the country, about 40 percent of them have had outages of a year or more,\u201d Weisenmiller said. \u201cIt\u2019s crazy we haven\u2019t had a plan in place to backstop that, if it\u2019s out for a year and frankly, we need a plan if it\u2019s not relicensed or if it can\u2019t come back from its current problems.\u201d The unanimous decision on the power plant project that would sit on 23 acres in northern San Diego County came despite strong opposition from community members and stakeholders. As designed, the Carlsbad Energy Center would reside within an area currently used by the 95-acre Encina Power Station, a five-unit, 965 MW facility built in 1954. Upon the new facility\u2019s powering, three of the five Encina units would be retired, according to NRG Energy, which owns both the Carlsbad project and the 58-year-old Encina plant. NRG said construction of the new facility would take about 25 months and cost upward of $500 million. The construction permit was approved on a 4-0 vote at the CEC\u2019s most recent business meeting, in spite of a large number of public speakers, most in opposition. The facility, which is designed to consist of one natural gas-fired combustion turbine and a steam turbine, had been strongly opposed by the City of Carlsbad, the Center for Biological Diversity, and others. They argued that the plant should not be placed in Carlsbad, a city of about 105,000 located 35 miles north of downtown San Diego, due to-- among other things--potential environmental impacts and a flawed review of the project by the commission. \u201cI don\u2019t agree with those arguments and I think the document is sufficient for the commission to take action,\u201d commissioner Karen Douglas said in explaining her vote. Douglas was the lead member of the CEC committee reviewing the project. The vote finalized a decision that had been on hold since June 2011. Last year, the commission voted to put the matter on hold while the project application was sent back to a siting committee for review due to several procedural errors that occurred during the initial review process and were subsequently pointed out publicly by the Center for Biological Diversity.