The California Public Utilities Commission is considering increasing power from fossil-fueled power plants to meet the mandate for 11,500 MW of additional energy available when the sun sets by 2026. That is despite decarbonization efforts in California, and an explicit call in late June by the same agency for carbon-free supplies.
A report by agency staff points to delays in battery storage additions, which are projected to supply half the new resources by 2025, in part due to supply chain constraints. It floats the possibility of adding up to 800 MW of new gas-fired power from “efficiency upgrades,” at newer power plants. The report says this would cause fewer emissions than getting the power from aging, inefficient gas plants. All of the gas-fired seawater-cooled power plants are more than 50 years old and the combined heat and power plants are more than 30 years. The latter have been shutting down largely because they can’t get power purchase agreements.
CPUC staff noted there are 1,200 MW of permitted plant upgrades that have not been built. The cost of the upgrades could be up to $8,5oo per MW a year.
“From a long-term decarbonization perspective, it may be beneficial to allow older, inefficient power plants to retire (especially inflexible cogeneration plants) while upgrading the capacity at newer, efficient plants that can flexibly integrate growing renewables,” the CPUC report suggests. Some of the units may include battery storage systems.
In contrast, a Sept. 30 report by the California Energy Commission concluded renewable energy and storage can provide the reliability the state needs even applying a 17.5% reserve margin. It found no need for additional fossil power.
In order to allow gas supplies to count toward the 11,500 MW of new resources ordered, the Commission would need to vote to make them eligible because new fossil power is not eligible now, staff said.
Last month, 120 MW of new gas peaking plants were added in Roseville and Yuba City under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to increase supplies this summer and next summer.