Sempra Unclear on Escondido 500 MW Plant

With several significant matters unresolved, including questions related to the procurement of property, Sempra Energy Resources is hesitant to predict when it will reach a final decision on pursuing the construction of a 500 MW, natural gas-fueled power plant in Escondido, CA.

"We are making progress, but it's too early to tell when we'll reach a point [on whether] we decide to go forward with this project," Tom Murnane, a spokesman for Sempra Energy Resources, told NGI last Monday.

He noted that there are several issues that need to be settled first before the company can decide whether to proceed with the project. For starters, Murnane noted that the company doesn't currently own the property at the proposed site. "We're currently in escrow, but the deal hasn't gone through," he said. "Obviously we can't build on a site if we don't own it or have rights to build on it," he added.

In addition, the location where Sempra Energy is considering building the power plant is an industrial park site, according to Murnane. He pointed out that Escondido wants a comprehensive plan for the development of the entire industrial park. "So we are also in negotiations with a firm that develops industrial plant sites to see if we can work with them to create a comprehensive plan and then to carry it out," Murnane said.

The spokesman said that Sempra Energy Resources also wants to make sure that the community supports the idea of a power plant project "and, so far, those indications are positive."

According to Murnane, city officials have said that they back the idea of a power plant, but also want to make sure that such a plant would benefit both the city and its residents. "And by benefit, they mean that some of the power from the plant would go to the city and its residents," he continued.

To that end, Escondido is considering establishing a municipal utility district or some other way of being able to buy power from the proposed plant, he noted. Sempra Energy Resources is on record as saying that it would be willing to sell power to the city, Murnane added.

He said that it's too early in the process for Sempra Energy Resources to start looking at financing for the possible project.

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