Gas, New Projects, Renewables

California Appeals Court to Review PUC Approval of Proposed NRG Power Plant

A California state appeals court will review a California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) vote to approve the construction of the proposed $2.2 billion Carlsbad Energy Center, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco agreed to a petition filed by the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) and the Center for Biological Diversity to reexamine the PUC’s 4-1 decision in May 2015 to greenlight the project.

The planned facility, which would be built by NRG, would replace the 62-year-old Encina Power Station, which is being forced into retirement largely due to its once-through cooling system. That system sucks in seawater to regulate operating temperatures at the plant, and has come under scrutiny because of its detrimental effects on marine wildlife.

Opponents of the new natural gas-fired plant argue that the facility would also harm the environment along the coastline, and that the plant is unnecessary because of increased penetrations of renewable energy sources.

“It’s the wrong technology in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said April Rose Sommer, executive director at the POC.

Opponents also argue that the PUC vote was held without a public bidding process and after an aide for PUC President Michael Picker met privately with the developer.

Proponents of the project say the Carlsbad plant would serve as the “new workhorse” for the region, providing the area with a quick-starting generation source that could back up intermittent renewable resources.

“The reality is we can’t just go forward with all-renewables and only renewables,” said Stephanie Donovan, senior communications manager for San Diego Gas & Electric, the utility that would buy power from the proposed facility. “This plant is still needed because it is actually not in competition with renewables or any other resource. We really need a balanced mix of all of the above.”

The decision of the appeals court to reexamine the PUC’s approval does not block construction of the plant. Rather, it means a panel of judges will review the approval of the project.