The California Energy Commission granted a license to build the 300 MW simple-cycle Pio Pico Energy Center Sept. 12. The project would sit in southern San Diego County, about a 30-minute drive from the Mexico border. Commissioner Andrew McAllister, like the other three board members, voted to approve the facility, but said he had mixed feelings about it. The project is needed in the short term, he said, due to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station possibly being offline another summer or longer. \u201cI think the timing issue here really is the overriding concern,\u201d he said. \u201cSan Onofre\u2019s likely to be off next summer. Much of the value of this plant, I think, is going to be unlocked in the very near term. The quicker it could go online the better, presumably.\u201d But McAllister also has concerns regarding some longer term issues surrounding not just the plant, but the entire region and state goals and policies. \u201cStrategic distributed generation, renewable or otherwise, I think has to be part of our medium-term to long-term solution to maintain the reliability and robustness of our electricity grid,\u201d he said. \u201cLong-term, if we really are going to take our policy goals to their local final conclusion, I do get a little nervous when we\u2019re talking single cycle. We are leaving a little efficiency on the table.\u201d The $300 million project consists of three natural gas-fired combustion turbine generators, each capable of generating 100 MW. The peaking facility would be located adjacent to the existing Otay Mesa Generating Project, a three-year-old, 510 MW natural gas-fired power plant situated on 10 acres in an unincorporated area near South San Diego. Pio Pico could fill part of the void left by the closed 309 MW South Bay Power Plant. The South Bay facility, which opened in 1960, ceased operations at the beginning of 2011. The applicant, a subsidiary of Apex Power Group, says it plans to begin construction of the facility in the first quarter of 2013. Construction\u2019s expected to last about 16 months, with commercial operations scheduled for May, 2014. \u201cThe long-term play has to be on the demand side and flexible resources that are cleaner,\u201d McAllister said. \u201cWe really have to hold ourselves to a higher standard going forward.\u201d Also during the business meeting, the commission got a preview of the commission\u2019s 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan. Garry O\u2019Neill, commission project manager, said that the report\u2019s recommendations include: -Increasing research and development of diverse bioenergy technologies and applications, as well as their costs, benefits and impacts; -Assessing and monetizing the economic, energy, safety, environmental, and other benefits of biomass; and -Streamlining the permitting of bioenergy facilities and reconciling conflicting regulatory requirements as much as possible.