PG&E pushes plan without new power plants

The controversial plan to build new power plants in The City could be shelved, according to a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. that was obtained byThe Examiner.

The original proposal was for The City to construct natural-gas-burning plants planned for San Francisco’s southeast area and at the airport. Those two plants would be used only when the state’s energy grid needs power to avoid blackouts.

If those plants are built, they could replace the electricity produced by a Mirant Corp. plant at Potrero Hill, leading to the closure of that facility, which has been criticized for the amount of pollution it generates.

Last week, PG&E presented a plan to Mayor Gavin Newsom that would prevent blackouts without building new plants. The Board of Supervisors agreed to delay a vote on a plan to build the natural-gas power plants after Newsom requested a week to develop a different energy plan.

The proposal by PG&E, presented to the mayor and his staff May 5, calls for new and improved transmission lines beneath The City; a network of upgraded generators to provide emergency power backup; and more rebates for businesses that agree to cut power use when blackouts loom.

The PG&E proposal — and a separate proposal to overhaul Mirant’s plant to run on natural gas — contain “pros and cons,” according to Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s electrical grid.

“If Potrero is closed before alternatives are in place, the California ISO will develop a plan for managed blackouts,” McCorkle wrote in an e-mail.

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said Monday that the mayor and his staff are committed to shutting down the Mirant plant and seeing whether that is viable without building another fossil-fuel plant.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell sponsored the legislation, which was postponed last week, to borrow $273 million to build the power plants. She said Monday that she is losing confidence that Mirant will close its plant.

In October, Newsom reached an agreement in principle for Mirant to close its plant in exchange for development subsidies, but a legally binding agreement has not been signed, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Despite the outcome of any talks, Mirant must overhaul the plant if it’s to meet state and federal water-pollution laws next year, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board documents show.

The Board of Supervisors could vote on the power plants today, though the vote could be delayed again.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

San Francisco’s energetic efforts

A proposal to build two new power plants in The City has been delayed and could be shelved.

» January 2003: Through a lawsuit, The City takes ownership of $60 million worth of power-plant equipment and stores it in Texas.

» October 2004: The California ISO confirms that a plan to build new power plants and undertake other projects could see two power plants closed without risking blackouts.

» May 2006: PG&E closes its Hunters Point plant, leaving The City with just the Mirant-owned plant.

» October 2006: California Energy Commission approves city plans to build new two power plants.

» February 2007: The California ISO confirms it will stop subsidizing the Mirant plant if The City builds new power plants.

» October 2007: Mayor Gavin Newsom reaches an in-principle agreement with Mirant to close its plant as soon as it’s no longer needed to protect against blackouts.

» October 2007: The Board of Supervisors votes 8-3 in support of plans to build power plants.

» May 6: PG&E presents ideas to officials for preventing blackouts without building plants.

» Wednesday: The Board of Supervisors agrees to delay a vote on borrowing $273 million for power-plant construction to give the mayor time to pursue alternatives.

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