State Regulators Seek To Keep San Francisco Power Plant Up And Running
California Independent System Operator Recommends Keeping Entire Potrero Power Plant Open Despite Need For Just A Fraction Of Mega-Facility’s Power, Will Vote On September 11
San Francisco, CA, September 10, 2009 – Less than one month ago, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell announced that the City and County of San Francisco had reached an agreement with the Mirant Corporation to close Mirant’s aging and polluting Potrero Power Plant upon approval of regulators at the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO). That announcement followed a two-year effort by Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, and Tom Ammiano, environmentalists, and community activists to close the Potrero Plant without spending $273 million on new dirty power plants to replace it.
Now, it appears that the Cal-ISO has contrary plans.
A September 2, 2009 memorandum from Cal-ISO Vice President Nancy Saracino recommends
that the ISO Board of Governors vote on September 11 to keep a contract in place that mandates operation of the entire 362-megawatt Potrero Power Plant through at least the end of 2010. This recommendation comes despite May 2009 reports in the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle that city officials have made a compelling case to close most of the Potrero facility, including its 206-megawatt billowing smokestack, by the end of this year and the entire plant by December 2010.
“Cal-ISO is a power plant-crazed agency,” said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce. “Without pressure from activists and courageous elected officials, ISO will never let us phase out dirty power plants in disadvantaged communities.”
The ISO had long insisted that San Francisco maintain 200 megawatts of fossil fuel generation to prepare for the rare instance of two major power lines going out on an unusually hot summer day. However, a January 2008 memorandum by respected think-tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research highlighted the fact that this figure was based on nearly four-year-old assumptions.
Cal-ISO has consistently revised its calculation in the face of policymaker and community pressure, conceding in June 2008 that the actual gap in terms of city “reliability” called for 150 megawatts, rather than 200. Legislation introduced by Supervisors Maxwell and Alioto-Pier in May 2009 highlights that this number has shrunk even further, to no more than 25 megawatts.
“Why continue to beat a dead horse?” asked longtime Bayview-Hunters Point community leader Espanola Jackson, who successfully fought a seven-year battle to stop a proposed 150-megawatt power plant in the Bayview to replace Potrero. “ISO has stated on several occasions that we do not need peakers or Mirant once the [400-megawatt] Trans Bay Cable is completed early next year.”