The fix may be in on Pio Pico power plant

Clearly conflicted CPUC commissioner changes her mind, decides to vote

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) is pushing for three gas-fired power plants: Quail Brush, near Mission Trails Regional Park; Pio Pico in the Otay area, and the Wellhead Escondido Energy Center. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) delayed two votes but now appears ready to vote Feb. 28. Bill Powers of Powers Engineering says that the Escondido project will not stir up major controversy, and Quail Brush, which has enraged the public, appears moribund. But Pio Pico is still on the table, and the Feb. 28 meeting will be devoted to it.

"There has been a full-court press by SDGE and the usual suspects over the last two months [at] the CPUC and the governor's office to approve Pio Pico," says Powers. "This proceeding now has the air of 'the fix is in' to it."

In December, Carla Peterman was named a commissioner of the CPUC. Earlier, she had been on the California Energy Commission (CEC). At the CEC, she was the lead commissioner in a September 2012 report stating that Pio Pico was necessary. "She was the lead commissioner on the environmental certification of Pio Pico by the CEC," says Powers, noting that determining whether the project is needed is outside of CEC's mandate.

Initially, Peterman agreed she should note vote on the Pio Pico matter. But just recently, she has changed her position because of "evolving legal advice," according to her chief of staff. "She has been cleared to vote." Hmmm. This sounds like the typical CPUC anti-consumer, anti-ratepayer, anti-environment con game. CPUC specializes in last minute switches that are buried in documents, such as the one Peterman's predecessor, Timothy Alan Simon, tried to pull in SDGE's attempt to get ratepayers to pick up the tab for uninsured costs of fires for which the utility was found responsible.

Raise hell.

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There is still the matter of the Sunrise Power link that SDGE kept insisting was needed for a reliable power supply in the San Diego area. They got their way, built it, and it is now reported to be energized. So, why do those two local plants need to be built? The whole thrust of recent power planning for the region was to remove the generation from the region and then rely on far-away sources. (The selling point was a reduction in pollution that we would have to breathe to have our bright lights, A/C, and power consuming entertainment devices.) Something doesn't add up here, even with the shut down of SONGS.

Visduh: Of course something doesn't add up. Don't be surprised if SONGS is permitted to start again. Rooftop solar is the answer, but SDGE and CPUC are making sure that it won't happen unless the utilities get rich off it. Best, Don Bauder

Natural gas is extremely cheap right now and in oversupply. Warren Buffet lost $1 billion of Berkshire's money on natural gas. Sempra has access to cheap natural gas in Mexico. It's probably more profitable for Sempra to generate electricity with natural gas than it is to buy it from other suppliers at market rates. Especially since the ratepayers are paying for the plants.

Burwell: It is true that natural gas prices have plummeted. But is Pio Pico really necessary? Best, Don Bauder

What's missing from this article is that all three projects are "peaker plants" intended to "supplement" industrial wind and solar installed further east in desert and chaparral areas. Those tax-subsidized projects have destroyed thousands of acres of wilderness--and will destroy thousands more with planned projects--with nary a peep from the mainstream press. Unfortunately, those who aren't directly affected by these massive installations buy the over-generalized "wind and solar are green are good" mind set. Standing under a wind turbine (one of a hundred in Ocotillo) the height of the tallest building in San Diego might give them another perspective. Pattern Energy's Ocotillo wind farm--poorly placed in an area rated "marginal" for wind speeds--went online in early December. Since then, with a few rare exceptions, the blades have barely turned. Hence, peaker plants. Follow the money: the only thing green about this power is the cash changing hands. A few resources on this issue: East County Magazine's exhaustive coverage, Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction on facebook, and SaveOcotillo on youtube and

Ikyoder: Yes, these are peaker plants. And they are destructive to the environment. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough. That explains the objections to Quail Brush, in particular, and also Pio Pico. I believe the answer is rooftop solar, but the CPUC permits the state's utilities to price consumers out of that market. It's another CPUC/utility scam. I agree: East County Magazine has done a very good job covering these plants. Best, Don Bauder

The CPUC must quash special interest and any APPEARANCE of special interest.

Let's hear MUCH more about efficiency and conservation from the CPUC and CEC when deciding these cases as though it is part of the equation of transition to a better energy future.

My employer has proactively taken conservation measures the past few summers and reported that energy cost savings have been increasing each year due to our efforts. What reason is there to abandon conservation and efficiency the rest of the year?

Enforcing the habit of conservation year-round could result in cost-savings and establishing real baselines of energy "need" (versus wasteful need) that may be relied upon as a bridge to-, and a permanent component of-, a new, smart, sustainable energy future with the immediate imperative to greatly reduce damage to the environment and atmosphere.

Conservation/efficiency could be a win-win for 1) consumers, 2) utility and power companies with integrity, and 3) our one & only planet.

Ask not what your planet can do for you, ask what you can do for your planet! Demand that policymakers and govt agencies/commissions take up that motto and challenge profiteering utility companies and wasteful consumers. Human survival relies on a healthy planet.

vitalinfo: You are right: conservation is critical. But the California utilities and the CPUC under Peevey only worry about the earnings per share of SDGE, SCE and PGE. Thus, conservation doesn't get a hearing, and, critically, neither does rooftop solar, which is the solution, now being blocked by the utilities and the CPUC. Best, Don Bauder

The CPUC is doing what it does best Promote for the Utilities which then justify the existence of the CPUC!

We are seeing the CPUC push for additional generation while at the same time drag its feet at allowing those that install solar to get the same for their generated solar as the Utilities...

Can anybody else yell DOUBLE STANDARD, which is one of the reasons that CA has some of the highest energy rates in the USA!

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