The California Public Utilities Commission held a relatively rare session in Oxnard on July 15 to weigh the pros and cons of replacing aging power stations at Mandalay Beach with a new peaker plant to be operated by NRG.
This has been a contentious issue. The city of Oxnard doesn’t like it, the social justice crowd finds more industrial locations in Oxnard offensive and the environmental community thinks it is too close to the ocean.
However, NRG’s plant should be approved by the California Energy Commission, which has the final say in the peaker plant debate.
It is a cost-effective way to transition from the ugly existing power stations at Mandalay Beach to a source of power that will increase grid reliability across the Ventura and Santa Barbara county portions of Southern California Edison’s territory.
Until battery storage of electricity is vastly improved, some form of back-up power generation capacity is going to be required as the state adds more and more renewable energy to its fleet. Solar farms are playing an increasing role but they don’t yet offer a way to keep the lights on overnight; wind is more reliable but it too can fluctuate.
Meanwhile, the fast-growing technology sector on the Central Coast is demanding more power and much more reliable power to keep our cloud-based computer companies and semiconductor plants on track.
Until there is a better solution for storage, the peaker plant makes sense. What also makes sense, however, is a plan that mitigates environmental impact, restores the area around the plants to be dismantled and puts Oxnard on a path to a more technology-focused future.
The social justice crowd does have a point in one respect. The high paying technology jobs that are powering the future of Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo are not as evident on the Oxnard plain as they are elsewhere.
What would make a lot of sense would be to work with educational institutions, employers and entrepreneurs to build a future for Oxnard around high technology manufacturing and exports.
But none of that can happen without a reliable source of electric power.
Call him the Paul Revere of the gas pump.
Sam Chea, a Business Times Spirit of Small Business winner several years ago, is relentless at posting on Facebook. He’s also the owner of Fred’s Gas & Food Mart, an independent gasoline retailer in Oxnard.
When he posted in early July that gas prices were going to go up 60 cents to 70 cents a gallon overnight, not everybody paid attention.
But Chea was right. Before websites like GasBuddy or the mainstream media could pick up on the story, there were his social media posts hinting at the coming outrage. And Chea has been holding the line, keeping his prices below the $4 mark.
Pundits are calling the price hike temporary — thanks in part to refinery outages. We’ll wait for our Paul Revere to signal all clear.