A dangerous game of chicken is being played between Southern California Edison and local governments.
Increasingly, it is the region’s small businesses that are turning up as road kill.
Edison has been talking for years about the need to balance electrical loads in the West Ventura County-South Santa Barbara County corridor it serves. Increased use of solar power and other nontraditional sources of electricity are making it harder and harder to ship power across the grid.
The solution, proposed by Edison several times, is to locate some sort of power facility between Goleta and Oxnard. Though it will likely be located near the coast, new Coastal Commission rules mean the power plant won’t be able to discharge water used for cooling into the ocean.
The problem is that until something moves on the power production and transmission front, Edison has been taking its time on addressing core infrastructure needs.
Problems with electricity up and down the Central Coast are complicated by the fact that the San Luis Obispo and North Santa Barbara County areas are serviced by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The PG&E territories are the beneficiaries of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, robust power lines and infrastructure connecting two large solar facilities to the grid.
Edison customers aren’t quite that lucky. An October power outage in Santa Barbara’s downtown shopping district affected some 20,000 customers and prompted Opal restaurant owners to launch a petition drive via email. A further outage shortly before Christmas took down power across much of the beachfront area and neighborhoods near the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Edison has told Santa Barbara’s Downtown Organization that it is aware of the problem but hasn’t given a timeline for a fix.
We suspect the problem of intermittent outages affecting businesses in the Santa Barbara-Ventura-Oxnard corridor won’t go away anytime soon. It’s time for area governments and Edison to work out a plan to provide reliable power to our communities. Part of the solution is finding a location for a power plant that really does seem necessary to balance loads up and down the Edison territory in the southern part of the Tri-Counties.