Chula Vista city officials aren’t the only ones hoping for a commitment from the California Independent System Operator about what steps are necessary to remove the reliability label from the South Bay Power Plant.

So is MMC Energy, a New York-based power company proposing to expand an existing power plant in Chula Vista. The plant is used to meet peak demand on hot summer days. The plant has an application pending with the California Energy Commission, the state agency that approves new power plants. But a commission committee has recommended denying the plant, which is up for a full vote later this month.

Cal ISO, the state agency responsible for guaranteeing electricity reliability, has said at least two of these three steps must happen before the South Bay Power Plant can come down:

  • SDG&E’s proposed high-voltage transmission line, the Sunrise Powerlink comes online. (It’s due no sooner than 2012.)
  • A new power plant opens in Otay Mesa. (It’s due this fall.)
  • Two smaller power plants capable of meeting peak demand come online.

Harry Scarborough, MMC’s senior vice president, told me that he’d love to be able to advertise the plant upgrade as satisfying part of that third option. But Cal ISO has been noncommittal, he said.

“That’s the problem we face,” he said. “The ISO has been very wishy-washy. We pointedly asked whether this project would contribute to South Bay eventually coming down. They keep throwing all these variables in there. It’s almost like there’s a mythical number out there and nobody wants to say what it is.”

ROB DAVIS

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