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SDG&E: Summer energy needs can be met, despite San Onofre shut down

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego Gas & Electric can meet its customers' electricity needs this summer despite the absence of power from the permanently shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, although users may be asked to conserve energy, utility officials said Tuesday.

Southern California Edison's parent company announced Friday that the plant's two reactor units would be shut down for good. Both units at the plant near Camp Pendleton were taken out of service in January 2012, one for planned maintenance and the other after a small leak of radioactive steam, later attributed to premature wearing of steam pressure tubes, was discovered.

Edison is the majority owner of the facility, but SDG&E owns about 20 percent and the city of Riverside a much smaller percentage.

Michael R. Niggli, SDG&E's president and chief operating officer, said the utility had been planing for a "no SONGS summer" for some time.

"Knowing that the plant was out last year, we were not anticipating it would be in service this year -- although we were hopeful," Niggli said.

The San Diego area lost about 440 megawatts from the SONGS outage, but many energy sources had come and gone over the past decade, he said.

SDG&E, SCE and the California Independent System Operator had plans in place to meet customers' needs safely and reliably, despite another summer without the SONGS facility, according to SDG&E's chairman and CEO, Jessie J. Knight Jr.

However, there could be some challenges.

"This summer SDG&E is reminding customers that while adequate electricity supplies are lined up to meet customer's energy needs, conservation and demand response will still be critical during this time of extreme hot weather, or a unplanned power plant outage or transmission line emergency if it does occur," Knight said.

Niggli said if additional power plants or transmission lines are taken out of service because of fires or for other reasons, officials will call on their customers to participate in conservation efforts.

SDG&E is also working with the California Public Utilities Commission on customer conservation efforts.

"We're going to be asking for the people of San Diego to be a nuclear power plant -- and you can be a nuclear power plant by making smart choices," CPUC Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval said.

Knight said using less energy could save money, protect the environment and ensure future generations had access to the energy supply. Utility officials will issue a "Flex Alert" calling on customers to conserve electricity.

Utility officials said that during high demand days, customers should set the thermostat to 78 degrees between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. or use fans instead; unplug electronic devices or use a smart power strip; install weather stripping; use a pool or spa cover; turn off lights when leaving a room; and replace bulbs with CFLs and monitor energy use.

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