On Dec. 11, 2018, the Encina Power Station was put into "retired" status and officially stopped operations. Under an agreement approved by NRG, SDG&E and the City of Carlsbad in January 2014, NRG committed to tearing down the old plant within three years of its retirement. Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the demolition has been delayed. The new estimated completion date is February 2022.
At a Glance
Although many ideas have been suggested about the future use of the power plant site, the land is privately owned by NRG, meaning the city can only control the types of uses allowed, not the specific project(s) that ultimately go there.
NRG has agreed to work with the community and the city on a plan for the future use of the land.
The city's General Plan, which was approved by the City Council in 2015, calls for a mix of open space and visitor serving commercial uses on the site. Since the property is along the coast, any use must be approved by the California Coastal Commission, which has a goal of “maximizing public access to the coast.”
New Power Plant
On July 30, 2015, the California Energy Commission approved a new more environmentally friendly, lower profile peaker style power plant in Carlsbad that would result in the old power plant being torn down and land along Carlsbad Boulevard freed up for uses more appropriate for the coast. That smaller plant is now online.
The City of Carlsbad had previously opposed building the new power plant because it wanted that land to be freed up for uses better suited to the coast, especially since new power plants don't rely on ocean water for cooling. Although the city does not have jurisdiction over the approval of new power plants, staff worked cooperatively with NRG and SDG&E to develop an agreement that would ensure the new plant provided greater benefits the local community and better meet the city's goals. In exchange for the provisions in the agreement, the city agreed to publicly support the new power plant. Some of these key provisions include:
NRG amended its project to create plant that is more environmentally friendly, lower profile and would run only during periods of peak demand. The new plant would be located below grade (where oil tanks for the old power plant used to be) to lessen the impact on views. The location at the far east of the property along the freeway would also enable other parts of the property to eventually be repurposed.
NRG agreed to completely retire and tear down the old Encina Power Station at no cost to taxpayers and begin the process to redevelop the site, working with the community and the city.
To support the City of Carlsbad’s goal of returning its coastal land to non-industrial uses, SDG&E agreed to relocate its operations yard (currently next to Canon Park) if the city could find an acceptable alternate location. SDG&E would then transfer ownership of the existing property to the city. If it is not possible to relocate the service center, NRG will pay the city $10 million.
What Can Go on the Site?
Here is what the city's updated General Plan says about the future of this site:
The General Plan envisions redevelopment of the EPS, as well as the adjacent SDG&E North Coast Service Center, with visitor-serving commercial and open space uses to provide residents and visitors enhanced opportunities for coastal access and services, reflecting the California Coastal Act’s goal of “maximizing public access to the coast.”
The city is currently updating its "Local Coastal Program," a set of policies that guide land use in the coastal zone, similar to how the General Plan guides land use in other parts of the city. Under the Coastal Act, cities must have a Local Coastal Program that shows how they will manage the development and conservation of coastal resources.
On May 31, 2012, the California Energy Commission approved NRG Energy’s application for a new power plant in Carlsbad, east of the existing Encina Power Station, between the railroad tracks and I-5. The City of Carlsbad opposed this project at that time because the power would not be used locally and the city felt the plant, as it was originally proposed, would have severely limited the ability to redevelop this coastal site. There was no guarantee the old plant would ever be torn down, resulting in two power plants on the coast.
In June 2013, SDG&E and Southern California Edison determined that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station would no longer operate. This closure has resulted in an increased and accelerated need for power generation in Southern California, including in the San Diego region. After working with the City of Carlsbad to address community concerns, NRG has submitted an amended project to the California Energy Commission for approval. The City of Carlsbad supported this new project because it provides a number of benefits to the local community, including a guarantee that the old plant will be torn down at no cost to taxpayers and precious coastal land will be returned to more appropriate, non industrial uses.