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Ratepayer Advocates Oppose Edison Plant Proposal

October 02, 2003|Nancy Rivera Brooks | Times Staff Writer

The consumer advocacy arm of the California Public Utilities Commission is urging regulators to reject a Southern California Edison plan to build a major power plant in San Bernardino County.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, in testimony filed with the PUC this week, said there was not enough evidence that the power plant, called Mountainview, would provide "net benefits to ratepayers." The office is an independent division of the PUC.

"We do not agree with their conclusions," Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said Wednesday. Alexander said the utility would file a response next week.

Edison in July acquired an option to take over construction of a stalled 1,054-megawatt power plant near Redlands -- the Rosemead utility's first major electricity-generating project in more than a decade.

But the Mountainview project was criticized by consumer watchdogs and rival electricity generators because of an unusual structure devised by Edison to make it easier to finance the deal.

A subsidiary would build the plant and sell the electricity to Edison under a 30-year contract, at a price tied to the cost of producing the power and approved by federal regulators. That price has not been disclosed.

The Office of Ratepayer Advocates said Edison would spend more building the plant than it would save from operating it. It also said there had been no competitive bidding to supply power and no finding that the plant was needed to supply customers. Finally, the watchdog unit said the deal would violate a PUC rule forbidding utilities from buying power from affiliates.

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