SAN DIEGO — The California Public Utilities Commission Thursday rejected an agreement to purchase electricity from a power plant proposed near Mission Trails Regional Park, saying it was unnecessary for the present.
The Quail Brush Energy Generation Project proposed by Charlotte, N.C.- based Cogentrix raised the ire of environmentalists, residents of Santee and the Santee School District. It was previously rejected last year by the city of San Diego’s Planning Commission and the San Diego City Council.
The California Energy Commission has final say on where the plant can be built, but the CPUC decision against granting a power purchase agreement that would allow San Diego Gas and Electric to buy electricity from the Cogentrix plant was a blow to the financial viability of the project.
Commissioners also rejected a power purchase agreement for the Pip Pico plant in the Otay area, but they approved a similar agreement between SDG&E and the Escondido Energy Center to provide up to 298 megawatts of energy beginning in 2018 from an existing 35 megawatt plant.
Commissioners said they rejected the Quail Brush and Pio Pico agreements in part because the energy wouldn’t be needed in 2014, when the projects were scheduled to go online.
“At present, the evidence supporting the need for Pio Pico and Quail Brush is inconclusive and SDG&E’s customers should not be made to pay until it is conclusive,” said Commissioner Mike Florio.
“My goal is simple: to ensure that SDG&E can best meet the future needs of its customers while avoiding a situation where ratepayers pay needlessly for new generation,” said Commissioner Mark J. Ferron. “It is only natural to look at these projects and conclude that they might help address not-yet-defined future problems. However, as tempting as it may be, I think this is the wrong approach. We run the risk of paying for new generation twice–once now and a second time if we have different, conflicting, future information.”
The commissioners said they would reconsider the agreements is the region’s energy needs changed in the future.
County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts opposed the Quail Brush plant. They said it would harm the environment, create visual blight in nearby Mission Trails Park, intrude upon sensitive habitats and set back regional efforts to develop cleaner forms of energy.
“Today’s rejection of Quail Brush is not only a victory for the environment, it’s a victory for the community,” Jacob said. “It sends a message that San Diego County shouldn’t rely on old-school, power plant technology and that we can accelerate our efforts to develop renewable, cleaner forms of energy, like rooftop solar and fuel cells.”
San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman also opposed the Quail Brush project.
” As the local representative for Mission Trails Park, this issue hits close to home,” Sherman said. “I am opposed to the construction of this power plant in the middle of an unspoiled regional park.”
The proposed plants also drew fire from members of environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Health Coalition.