Friday, Feb. 15, 2008 | The South Bay has lived with the hulking South Bay Power Plant on the Chula Vista bayfront for nearly half a century. It has remained there largely because the state has told us it is needed to ensure our region has enough reliable energy.

The Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce has long stood strongly in favor of projects, programs and policies that ensure energy reliability, but now, for the first time, we have some valuable insight into the minds of state energy officials that can help South Bay residents retire the power plant and reclaim our bayfront.

In a two-page letter to Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, the head of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which manages the state’s power grid, wrote that the plant’s removal hinges on the approval of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line and the completion of a new power plant in Otay Mesa.

The Otay Mesa Power Plant is under construction and due to come online in 2009. That’s the easy part. The Sunrise Powerlink, a proposed 150-mile transmission line that would carry renewable energy to San Diego from the Imperial Valley, has yet to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

It is now clear that the interests of the South Bay are closely aligned with the fate of the Sunrise Powerlink. Support the transmission line and we boost our chances of seeing the South Bay Power Plant torn down for good.

The CAISO has made it clear that the Sunrise Powerlink should be supported because it will deliver much-needed energy from the sun, wind and geothermal heat to our rapidly growing region.

Beyond what the CAISO says, many people would agree that the future of our region depends on tapping into the vast potential of renewable energy sources available to us in the Imperial Valley. In fact, state officials have gone as far as to pass a law requiring that utilities provide 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010.

In light of that law, and the CAISO’s position, it is incomprehensible to us that the CPUC would drag its feet on the Sunrise Powerlink while advocate for five new fossil-fueled power plants in San Diego, with one possibly sited on the Chula Vista bayfront.

The CPUC is coming to San Diego on Feb. 25 to listen to public comments on its proposal. It is a great opportunity for South Bay residents who want to retire the South Bay Power Plant to attend the meeting and speak to the decision-makers directly. It is our last and best chance to do something that will not only benefit our bayfront, but will also benefit the entire region, which needs the reliable and renewable energy that would be delivered by the Sunrise Powerlink.

The South Bay Power Plant stands in the way of public access to the coast, economic development and a better of quality of life for Chula Vistans. Chula Vista and Carlsbad stepped up decades ago and welcomed huge power plants into their communities. More recently, Escondido did the same with the Palomar Energy Center. There are several smaller “peaker” plants throughout the region, with more in the planning stages. We have done our fair share.

We are not the only ones who feel this way. The California Energy Commission supports the Sunrise Powerlink. The federal Department of Energy has done a study showing the region needs more transmission lines — not power plants.

The CPUC also proposes that a relatively small amount of renewable energy — about 300 megawatts, or enough to power about 195,000 homes — come from new wind and solar facilities in San Diego’s back country and the Anza-Borrego region. While that’s a good goal, it is nowhere near enough to make a difference. The Sunrise Powerlink would bring 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy, which is enough to power 650,000 homes.

So in the end, we are left with a choice: Continue to provide for our energy the old-fashioned way with a large, fossil-fueled power plant on the Chula Vista bayfront, or embrace a cleaner, brighter energy future with the Sunrise Powerlink. We urge everyone to make the same choice we have and let the CPUC know we want our bayfront back.

Lisa Cohen is the CEO of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce. Agree with her? Disagree? send a letter to the editor.

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