- California's First District Court of Appeals last week said it would review the Public Utilities Commission's approval of the $2.2 billion, 500 MW gas-fired Carlsbad Energy Center, which would be constructed to the replace older and less-efficient Encina plant, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
- While opponents of the plant say more renewables and storage could be used to meet demand, the court challenge focuses on the lack of a public bidding process and possible behind-the-scenes talks.
- The lawsuit was filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity, according to the news outlet.
The Appeals Court decision last week was a victory for environmentalists, but they face an uphill battle. Their challenge focuses on how the project was approved, and the Union-Tribune notes the court's review won't block potential construction.
Ultimately, Protect Our Communities says the new gas generation isn't needed. And if it is, the state has aggressive carbon goals that means renewable energy should be utilized over fossil fuels.
Regulators approved the project last year, but reduced the proposed capacity from 600 MW to 500 MW, and instead included 100 MW of renewables or energy storage in an effort to broker a compromise between environmental advocates and supporters of the gas plant. By approving the gas plant, regulators rejected an Administrative Law Judge's recommendation to forgo construction, since SDG&E will not need to replace generation before 2022.
Even so, environmental advocates still seek to block construction, saying "Encina certainly can continue to operate long enough to bridge any reliability gap that may occur (however unlikely it is) while SDG&E solicits competing—and cleaner—generation offers, as it is required to do by law."
POC filed its petition in December, telling the court, the "the urgency upon which the PUC based its decision is a fiction."
San Diego Gas & Electric representative Stephanie Donovan told the Union-Tribune, "the unfortunate thing is any further delay in the construction of the Carlsbad Energy Center, which is a clean-burning natural gas facility, continues to delay the retirement of the region's last costly, inefficient and high-emissions power plant (Encina)."