CEC supports reliability designation for Huntington Beach units

Given the continuing uncertainty about the fate of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) San Onofre nuclear power plant, the California Energy Commission has endorsed a plan to operate Huntington Beach Units 3 and 4 as “synchronous condensers” for grid support.

Cal ISO Vice President Keith Casey talked about plans to use the two Huntington Beach fossil units for voltage support when he visited Washington, D.C., in September.

The CEC said in a Nov. 29 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it endorses a California ISO plan to use Huntington Beach 3 and 4 operate as synchronous condensers as part of a backup plan in the event that neither of the Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary’s San Onofre reactor units are available for the summers of 2013 or 2014.

Both San Onofre 2 and 3 have been out of service since January due to tube wear problems in relatively new steam generators. SCE announced this fall that it was asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for approval to restart Unit 2 at reduced power (70%) and run it for several months.

The NRC review, however, is expected to take several months and there is no guarantee that NRC will approve the restart. Unit 2 has evidently experienced less serious tube problems than Unit 3.

SCE is removing the fuel core on Unit 3 and that’s considered a sign that the unit will be unable to operate in either of the next two summers – if ever.

The San Onofre nuclear units each have a generating capacity of more than 1,000 MW and are concerned vital to the electric grid in San Diego and Southern California.

During the summer of 2012, state regulatory agencies agreed to restart Huntington Beach 3 and 4, which were set to retire at the start of 2012, but continued to hold its air permits and emission credits. These units provided the voltage support needed to maintain reliability in the Southern Orange County and San Diego areas, the CEC said in the Nov. 29 letter.

“However, the Huntington Beach Units 3 and 4 emission credits transferred to the Walnut Creek Energy Park on November 1, 2012.” As a result, the Huntington Beach units can no longer operate without a full New Source Review.

But the CEC has approved a Huntington Beach request to install synchronous condensers. The situation is complicated by breach of contract claims by JP Morgan, which has contracts to run other units at the AES (NYSE: AES) Huntington Beach power station.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.