LS Power’s rhetoric about the future of the South Bay Power Plant has softened since last week.

After Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox formally announced her opposition to a new bay-front power plant today, LS Power spokesman David Hicks said the company will consider whatever recommendations the council makes — even if that means the current proposal gets scrapped.

“If the council changes its mind and decides it wants something different there, then we’ll consider their wishes,” Hicks said.

The company’s overall position hasn’t changed, though. Hicks said LS Power still believes the bay-front site is the best location for a 620-megawatt natural-gas-fired power plant that would operate more efficiently than the existing plant. The proposal, Hicks said, is the best and fastest way to have the existing plant torn down.

The South Bay Power Plant cannot simply be shuttered and demolished. The California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electricity grid, has given the plan a must-run designation, meaning that it’s essential for maintaining the region’s electricity supply. Though it produces power less efficiently than newer plants, it must remain in place until other power sources are found.

Tearing down the existing plant and replacing it would free up 115 acres of bay-front land. The proposed plant would sit on an adjacent 15- to 20-acre site.

Cox said this morning that she thought a power plant that could meet peak power needs — a plant that would operate, for example, during summer hot spells — should be built elsewhere in Chula Vista. San Diego Gas & Electric said last week that it needs power from those plants that fire up at peak hours, typically called “peakers.” An SDG&E official said the company doesn’t want power from plants that create the region’s base electricity loads.

Hicks said building a plant somewhere else “makes it a lot more difficult, because we’ve done extensive work on that (proposed) site and all kinds of studies.”

He said the company awaited the recommendations of a Chula Vista City Council subcommittee that is expected to be formed tomorrow night.

“If the city and the port feel differently,” Hicks said, “we’re going to consider seriously what they want. To this point what they had wanted is what we proposed. That’s the direction we were given.”

That direction came from a 1999 resolution adopted by Chula Vista City Council.

ROB DAVIS

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