16,000 Californians Reject SDG&E’s Plan to Bypass Clean Energy Projects

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Utility plans to replace SONGS with new fossil fuel power plant at major cost to customers, climate

Katherine Owens, Environmental Defense Fund, (512) 691-3447, kowens@edf.org
Marta Stoepker, Sierra Club, (313) 977-0054, marta.stoepker@sierraclub.org
Rosalind Jackson, Vote Solar, (415) 817-5061, rosalind@votesolar.org

(SAN FRANCISCO – August 21, 2014) Advocates delivered more than 16,000 petition signatures from Californians today urging state regulators to reject a proposal from San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that would needlessly increase the region’s dependence on fossil fuels by approving the proposed construction of the 600 megawatt (MW) Carlsbad natural gas plant. The coalition of environmental, clean energy, and environmental justice advocates warned that new, costly fossil fuel investments are unjustified, inconsistent with state regulation, and will come at a significant cost to Californians’ health and climate.

Last year’s shuttering of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) set off a pitched debate about the region’s near- and long-term energy future. California has a rare opportunity to enable renewables, energy efficiency, demand response, and other pollution-free energy options to compete with fossil fuels to replace the power from SONGS in SDG&E’s service territory. This opportunity will be lost with the immediate approval of the Carlsbad contract.

Organizations participating in the petition to oppose the natural gas proposal include: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Vote Solar, California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Clean Coalition, CREDO, Environment California, and 350.org.

“This massive display of concern from California energy customers is quite timely, because the CPUC still has an opportunity to ensure SDG&E first pursues truly clean energy solutions. SDG&E has proposed sound, cost-effective ideas, like investing in energy storage, proposing a vehicle-grid-integration pilot, and relying on demand response programs, that can and should be pursued instead of resorting to expensive, polluting fossil fuels,” said James Fine, Director of Energy Valuation Research and Senior Economist at EDF.

“SDG&E is resorting to special treatment to prop up a dirty power plant proposal when cost-effective clean solutions can get the job done. This is just more of the same from our regulated utilities, which would prefer to cut deals with fossil fuel providers far from the public eye, rather than let clean energy compete. Now is the time for both our regulators and utilities to show real energy leadership by replacing SONGS with 100 percent clean energy,” said Evan Gillespie, Director of Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign.

“Climate impacts are already taking a major toll on our communities, and yet our state is poised to approve a bonanza of new contracts for dirty gas power plants. There is no reason to increase our dependence on the fossil fuels of the past when we can instead meet 100 percent of Southern California’s new energy needs reliably and affordably with clean options,” said Jim Baak, Grid Integration Program Director at Vote Solar.

“SDG&E’s proposal reflects the interests of the utility rather than the communities it serves. This plan would have us rely on massive amounts of unnecessary and polluting natural gas power at a cost of billions of dollars without even considering cleaner options like energy efficiency, demand response, and renewables,” said Strela Cervas, Coordinator at CEJA.

Advocates noted that SDG&E’s request for CPUC approval of the natural gas procurement does not account for recently approved transmission projects, which are expected to reduce local electricity needs by 800 to 1600 MW. Advocates are filing a protest today at the CPUC against SDG&E’s application for approval of Carlsbad, calling for SDG&E to submit a new application that accurately reflects these reductions in local-area generation needs in order to confirm that new generating capacity is indeed necessary. Advocates urge SDG&E to meet any remaining energy needs through an all-source solicitation that is open to renewables and other clean energy resources rather than giving natural gas special treatment with a bilateral contract.

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