Natural Gas

How Natural Gas Fuels San Diego’s Power Plants

When you flip a switch, all that matters is that the lights come on. But did you know the electricity mix that powers homes and businesses in San Diego today is far different than what we relied on years ago?

Fifteen years ago, we delivered less than one percent renewable energy to our customers. Today, we are proud to say that more than 43 percent of power San Diegan’s use comes from renewable sources like solar and wind – and a majority of the rest is natural gas.    

Then and now

Back in the 1950s and 1960s when most large power plants were built, they burned oil and then later converted to natural gas. Since then, most of the older facilities have been replaced with newer efficient natural gas facilities, helping to reduce carbon emissions with newer technology. And, up until a few years ago, nuclear power made up about 20 percent of our energy mix as well as a small percentage of coal power.

One of the newer natural gas power plants in San Diego is the Palomar Energy Center in Escondido, which is owned and operated by SDG&E. Built in 2006, this facility can generate up to 565 megawatts (MW) of power, enough electricity to power 360,000 homes. The facility also produces about 45 percent more electricity than what an older plant could produce using the same amount of natural gas.

The Palomar Energy Center is one of about two dozen local natural gas power plants, both big and smaller “peaker” plants, that combined can produce more than 3,000 MW of power that is delivered to SDG&E electric customers in San Diego and southern Orange Counties. The company also contracts with power plants outside San Diego to fill the gap.

Natural gas is not only a reliable, consistent fuel source that meets our power supply needs, but natural gas generation also provides important voltage support to the local electric grid to keep the power flowing smoothly.

Greening our grid

When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, natural gas generation is there to keep the electric system running smoothly. Natural gas balances the variable output of wind and solar generation to ensure the electric grid remains stable to keep the power flowing.

As we continue to add more renewable energy for our customers, complying with state mandates, natural gas will play an equally important role – as well as provide more than half of our energy mix today – of enhancing reliability for our customers and helping integrate renewable energy onto our system.

Natural gas helps keep the lights on today while helping making our grid greener for tomorrow. Click here to read more about how natural gas powers your every day.