Major Power Plant Retirements in So Cal

14 Mar 2018

Merchant generators struggling in California are closing and selling off gas-fired generating facilities to stem the flow of red ink.

After contracts for the output of three aging natural gas power plants in Southern California owned by NRG subsidiary, GenOn, were not renewed, the company threw in the towel.

Slated for retirement over six months are the 640 MW Etiwanda Plant in Rancho Cucamonga, the 1,516 MW Ormond Beach plant in Oxnard, and its 54 MW Ellwood plant in Goleta.

GenOn, which filed for bankruptcy in June of 2017, is closing its 60-year old Etiwanda facility on June 1.

Etiwanda has struggled to stay afloat for years. Most recently, its two 320 MW units were under contract with Southern California Edison until the end of 2017. Before that, this old plant, which was spun off from Edison at the start of California’s deregulation era in the late 1990s, was mothballed when California’s deregulation scheme went haywire.

In 2003, Reliant Energy, the owner before NRG, closed two of Etiwanda’s four units. Then in the summer of 2004, the California Independent System Operator signed a reliability must run deal with Reliant for the remaining units

David Knox, NRG spokesperson, said “Etiwanda is currently available without a contract, market only,” until the end of May.

GenOn’s Ormond Beach power plant in Oxnard, which also has struggled to be profitable, is to be retired October 1. The last two years, it has been under short-term resource adequacy deals with Edison. Its 741 MW unit 1 and 775 MW unit 2 were under contract with Edison until the end of last year. Edison signed another resource adequacy agreement for 741 MW from unit one between July 1, 2018, and Sept. 30 of this year, according to a utility spokesperson.

The other GenOn plant to be retired is the 54 MW Ellwood plant. It was initially considered needed for local reliability in Edison’s Moorpark subarea in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. However, it was considered outside that controversial portfolio because of an earlier CAISO designation. That disputed Edison portfolio included NRG’s proposed 262 MW Puente Project, which was turned down by the California Energy Commission.

The 54 MW Ellwood plant also has been under short-term resource adequacy deals with Edison. The earlier one runs from June 2016 through May 31, 2018, Edison stated. A second resource adequacy contract runs from June 1, 2018 to the end of this year.

Ellwood is then slated for closure at the start of 2019.

Calpine, which owns about 5,460 MW of baseload and peaking gas-fired plants, was recently taken over by Energy Capital and a consortium of investors led by Access Industries and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The fate of its 800 MW of geothermal power and 250 MW of cogeneration in the state remains to be seen.

Last year, Calpine put in cold storage its fairly young 542 MW Sutter Energy Plant in Yuba City. It lacks a contract and is in a transmission stranded area so it can’t dispatch power in the state’s geographically broader wholesale market.

The company’s 580 MW Metcalf plant in San Jose, 47.6 MW Yuba City facility and 47.6 MW Feather River plant are staying afloat with controversial one-year reliability must run contracts the California Independent System Operator approved in November of 2017.

Elizabeth McCarthy

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