State Not Ready to Shut Down Mirant Power Plant Just Yet

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City clean power activists and politicos were split in their reactions to the outcome of a state power regulatory body meeting today in Folsom, as San Francisco's plans to shutter the Mirant power plant "irrevocably" by 2010 took something of a hit.

While Cal-ISO -- the state body that determines how much power generation municipalities require -- seemed amenable to shutting down the plant's Unit 3 smokestack when the highly touted transbay power cable comes online early next year, it was not willing to pull the plug on Mirant outright. Citing a potential city shortage of 25 Megawatts, Cal-ISO was not yet ready to give assent to close Units 4, 5, and 6. The body pledged to complete an analysis within two months regarding whether it is viable to shutter those units.

The city has long held that decreased overall power demand would allow San Francisco to meet its power quotas without adding any additional generation. At the August press conference announcing the city's settlement with Mirant, Public Utilities Commission head Ed Harrington described that so-called 25 MW shortage as "overly cautious": That figure assumed "two major power transmission cables went down on the peak hour of the peak day and no one ever made any change in their behavior when it happened." 

City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said he was relatively pleased with today's outcome -- he's glad Cal-ISO has seen its way to shutter Unit 3, and he's optimistic its study will come back in two months with data that will lead to the closures of Units 4 through 6.

Yet city green power activists Josh Arce of BrightLine and Marie Harrison of Greenaction, felt Cal-ISO was dragging its heels -- with Harrison commenting that the "What if" scenarios involved in the 25 MW argument were ludicrous.

"It's clear to us that Cal-ISO doesn't like having advocates from the community visit them in Folsom," said Arce. "So we took that as our cue to come back and visit them."


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