Puente Power Plant Not Needed But Will Be Built

California already has too many power plants. A report published by the Los Angeles Times details how the state has created a glut of electricity capacity over the last decade at the expense of ratepayers. 

Mandalay Power Plant

Mandalay Power Plant

The California Energy Commission is holding a public hearing in Oxnard this week before it votes on whether to approve the Puente Power Project. The plant, proposed by Southern California Edison, would provide power during peak use and replace two older gas-fired steam turbines in Mandalay Bay that cause more pollution. They were barely used in 2015, operating at about 6.5% of their capacity, according to federal data.

We should not rush the Puente Power Project until the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission can adequately justify the need for this plant.  A recent Los Angeles Times investigation found that the state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than needed by 2020. 

Regulators continue to approve more plants and increase electricity rates, even though some plants have even been forced to shut down because their power is not needed. Californians, meanwhile, are footing the $40-billion annual bill, paying $6.8 billion more than in 2008.  

Jackson, state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) and Rep. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) joined a chorus of consumer advocates and environmental groups who have been calling on regulators to reject the Oxnard project and several other proposed natural gas facilities. They say there are cleaner alternatives and that many existing plants are underused. 

The Puente plant would sit on 3 acres of the existing Mandalay Generating Station. It would replace two older units and wouldn’t tap ocean water for its operations, projected to start in 2020.  Though the new plant would create less pollution, the state should not continue to build plants that contribute to smog production.  

Despite objections, the California Public Utilities Commission has already approved Southern California Edison’s contract with Houston-based NRG Energy Inc., which would build the plant. 

An energy commission staff report found no significant environmental impact. 

The Puente project is one of a series of plants proposed in Southern California from Oxnard to Carlsbad.  Regulators say the plants are needed to rid the region of old, inefficient power plants that pollute communities.

The additional power will also provide stability to the electric grid as the state continues ramping up renewable energy sources to reach its mandated goal of 50% clean energy by 2030, regulators say.  (L.A. Times, 2/7/2017)