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Morro Bay discusses other Duke options 

Instead of three 450-foot smoke stacks jutting up from Morro Bay, imagine an ESPN Sportszone bar, a wave machine, and a Ferris wheel. This may sound fantastical, but these are just a few of the alternatives to a power plant that Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz recently showed the City Council in a PowerPoint presentation.

Weeks ago, after Duke announced its plan to sell the Morro Bay plant along with eight other of its power plants, the Morro Bay City Council directed staff to return with alternative plans for the site.

According to Schultz, Duke wants to sell all nine of its energy plants to one buyer, but if an investment agency like Bank of America purchased the plants, then the city could pair up with a developer and buy the property. Schultz said the property, which has about 50 acres of developable land, would sell for about $50 million and it would cost an additional $40 million to level the plant. Because of the high cost of obtaining the plant, Shultz said private funding is likely a necessity.

After the 2 1/2-hour City Council meeting, with an hour and half of public comment, Schultz said the consensus was to research how to go about decommissioning the plant. The City Council created an ad-hoc committee that will, in turn, create a task force to research and analyze funding measures for the decommissioning of the plant.

"This is a daunting task," said Schultz. "Everyone's got different opinions."

According to Shultz, there are three options for the future of the Duke plant: it continues to operate, fulfilling its contract with PG&E to supply power on an on-demand basis; the plant is decommissioned and the land is developed; or the plant is modernized, making it profitable again.

"Just looking at the climate, I would be very surprised if the modernization plant went through," said Schultz, attributing his statement to the difficulty of obtaining permits. Which really leaves the question to be asked as when will the plant be decommissioned.

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