- The California Public Utilities Commission last week approved a plan to replace a 1950s era power plant with a new 500 MW natural gas facility to provide power for San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E)customers.
- The new Carlsbad Energy Center, to be built by NRG Energy, will help replace the old Encina plant's output, as well as generation lost when the San Onofre nuclear plant was declared unsafe and shuttered in 2013. SDG&E held a 22% share of the 2,200 MW plant.
- Environmentalists and ratepayer advocates protested the CPUC decision, claiming the regulators’ 4-1 vote dismissed renewables and energy efficiency options which offer more economic and social benefits.
SDG&E initially proposed a 600 MW facility that it estimated would cost consumers $2.6 billion over 30 years. The commissioners postponed reaching a decision earlier this month to further consider other options.
In an effort to broker a compromise between proponents of the gas plant and renewables advocates, CPUC President Michael Picker placed two conditions on approval. One reduced Carlsbad’s original 600 MW capacity to 500 MW, and the second required that the other 100 MW of capacity come from the "preferred sources" of renewables or energy storage.
In approving the gas plant, regulators rejected an Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation to not build it because the utility will not need replacement generation before 2022.
In the decision, the commissioners said they believe SDG&E can meet Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 50% renewables by 2030 mandate but needs the gas plant to maintain reliable service.
Many renewables advocates were not satisfied with the deal.
The decision was "drafted behind closed doors," according to Sierra Club senior attorney Matt Vespa, who added that building the gas facility is “stifling San Diego's clean energy potential, job growth and ambitious efforts to reduce pollution that exacerbates health issues and climate change."