CPUC Poised to Reject Pio Pico

By Published On: December 14, 2012

The California Public Utilities Commission is set turn down about 450 MW of power purchase agreements between San Diego Gas & Electric and some fossil fuel power plants--perhaps as early as next week. The proposed decisions come as thousands of people in the area continue peppering authorities--including the California Energy Commission and San Diego County Planning Commission--with petitions, e-mails, and comments opposing the new fossil fuel plants. The pleas led attorneys representing environmental groups Nov. 28 to ask the CPUC to hold a hearing on the proposed power deals in San Diego so local residents could participate. Proposed CPUC decisions focus on the state “loading order.” The regulatory policy emphasizes energy efficiency and other measures that reduce additional fossil fuel power plants. Two draft decisions--one by an administrative law judge and an alternate by commission member Mark Ferron--would disapprove two pending SDG&E power purchase agreements. The contracts are with the developers of the 305 MW Pio Pico Energy Center and the 100 MW Quail Brush Power Station in San Diego County. They could be on line within two years. The proposed administrative law judge decision also would deny a deal between the utility and the repowered 45 MW Escondido Energy Center. Ferron’s alternate would allow Escondido to proceed on grounds it’s relatively small and would have some environmental and economic benefits. SDG&E resource planning director Robert Anderson maintains the utility needs all the contracts to meet peak power needs. After hearings, the commission judge found that 151 MW of uncommitted energy efficiency and 219 MW of demand response should prevent any need for the plants until at least 2018. The judge concluded Nov. 20 that SDG&E should issue a new request for offers for a slimmed down need for additional energy in 2018. That need is projected to be 343 MW. If Ferron’s alternate is approved, “need” would be scaled down to 298 MW. Meanwhile, typical of residents complaining is Kristina Gaus, who told the Energy Commission earlier this fall that Quail Brush “threatens the health, recreation, natural beauty, quiet, and quality of life” of San Diegans who use the nearby Mission Trails Regional Park. Quail Brush also would be near the West Hills High School. A license to build Quail Brush--which would consist of 11 natural-gas fueled engines--is pending before the Energy Commission, which already issued a license to build Pio Pico earlier this year. The Energy Commission is in charge of weighing the environmental impacts when it issues construction licenses for power plants. CPUC decisions on whether or not to approve power purchase agreements turn on the economic need for planned facilities.

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