Group challenges California okay for Pio Pico gas project

On July 28, the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) petitioned a state appellate court in San Diego, challenging the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) approval of the Pio Pico Energy Center, a proposed $1.6bn natural gas power plant.

The petition claims that the CPUC violated California state law when it approved the Pio Pico power plant by failing to carry out its duty to protect San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) customers from unnecessary and expensive power company projects. The group said the CPUC barred testimony showing there was no need for Pio Pico and refused to consider any alternatives to the gas plant. POC supports clean energy alternatives to Pio Pico, including rooftop solar and energy efficiency.

The July 28 petition filed with the State District Court of Appeal in San Diego seeks to overturn a February decision by the commission authorizing construction of Pio Pico under a 25-year contract. Customers of SDG&E are expected pay around $1.6bn for the facility over the contract term.

A key dispute was the fact that the CPUC assumed the $2bn Sunrise Powerlink, a project opposed by many San Diegans that came online in 2012, would fail when needed most, POC said. As a result, says the CPUC, more gas-fired generation is necessary to cover for any loss of the Sunrise Powerlink.

In the meantime, Pio Pico Energy Center LLC applied July 15 at the California Energy Commission for an 18-MW uprate in its gas-fired project, saying the project is due to go into construction in September of this year. The energy commission certified the Pio Pico Energy Center (PPEC) project in September 2012.

The PPEC is a peaking and load following power plant with a nominal net generating capacity of 300 MW that will use three General Electric LMS100 natural gas-fired combustion turbine generators (CTGs). The project site is adjacent to the Otay Mesa Generating Project, an existing natural gas-fired power plant, in an unincorporated area of San Diego County, Calif. The project company is affiliated with Energy Investors Funds.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.