California looks at options to replace shut San Onofre plant

The California Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 11 released for comment a proposed decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on how to replace the capacity from the retired San Onofre nuclear plant.

San Onofre, with about 2,200 MW of critically needed capacity in the Los Angeles area, had been shut due to mechanical problems, then Southern California Edison in mid 2013 threw in the towel on trying to restart it. That kicked off an effort to find replacement capacity that is needed in a pretty short timeframe. When the commission acts on the proposed ALJ decision, it may adopt all or part of it as written, amend or modify it, or set it aside and prepare its own decision.

This is the Track 4 decision in the 2012 long-term procurement proceeding. In this decision, the ALJ would authorize Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to each procure between 500 MW and 700 MW by 2022 to meet local capacity needs stemming from the retired San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS).

SCE is required to procure at least 400 MW, and up to the full 700 MW of authorized additional capacity, from preferred resources or energy storage. SDG&E is required to procure at least 200 MW, and up to the full 700 MW of authorized additional capacity, from preferred resources or energy storage.

Like the 2013 Track 1 decision in this proceeding authorizing procurement by SCE in the Los Angeles Basin, this decision provides “buckets” of procurement for preferred resources (such as renewables, demand response resources and energy efficiency), energy storage and gas-fired resources.

Combining Track 1 and Track 4 procurement authority, SCE is authorized to procure between 1,900 MW and 2,500 MW in the LA Basin. SCE is required to procure up to 60% of new local capacity in the LA Basin from preferred resources.

SDG&E is required to procure at least 40% – and up to 100% – of new local capacity from preferred resources.

SCE and SDG&E are required to procure at least 50 MW and 25 MW, respectively, from energy storage, which would probably be something like batteries.

The procurement authorized by this proposed decision as well as the Track 1 and gas-fired Pio Pico project decisions will offset the retirement of the 2,200 MW SONGS facility and nearly 5,900 MW of once-through cooling plants.

SCE is authorized to use the procurement process approved in Track 1 of this Rulemaking to procure capacity for the purposes of both Track 1 and Track 4. SCE is expected to file an application for approval of up to 2,500 MW of local capacity resources later in 2014.

SDG&E is authorized to solicit procurement offers through an all-source request for offers (RFO) and bilateral negotiations, subject to Energy Division approval of its procurement process.

SCE and SDG&E may propose options or contingency contracts in their procurement applications, or separate applications, subject to responses to specific inquiries.

Sierra Club said this proposal leaves door open to gas-fired options

The Sierra Club said in a Feb. 11 statement about the ALJ decision: “Today’s proposed decision, if approved next month by the Commission, authorizes SCE and SDG&E to construct new clean energy resources to replace the plant. However, the decision also gives the utilities the option of proposing gas-fired power plants, at later date. New dirty power plants would add new air pollution to one of the most polluted regions in the country, while making climate disruption worse.”

Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign, added: “Today’s proposed decision is a step in the right direction. The Public Utilities Commission’s proposal includes new commitments to clean energy development, and Commissioner [Mike] Florio’s proposal affirms that California can replace the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with 100% clean energy. However, the proposed decision also needlessly leaves the door open for utilities to propose the construction of new gas-fired plants in the future, which would constitute replacing a carbon-free energy resource with new fossil fuels. The Commission severely discounted the benefits of carbon-free solutions like improved transmission, demand response, distributed generation, and energy storage for meeting local energy needs.”

In January, the Sierra Club released a poll showing that a majority of electric customers in Orange and San Diego counties preferred that the San Onofre nuclear station be replaced by clean energy instead of gas-fired power plants.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.