Alternative Energy Sources Win Supporting Role in So Cal

By Published On: March 13, 2014

In spite of ongoing community opposition, regulators March 13 unanimously approved a decision directing the development of 600 MW of energy efficiency, renewables and other non-traditional local resources in Southern California. They set a clean energy resources floor, which also includes energy storage and demand response, for Southern California’s two private utilities to partly fill the void left by the closure of the 2,200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The decision was placed on the California Public Utilities Commission’s consent agenda this week, but moved to the regular agenda. That allowed regulators to publicly discuss why they did not support a 100 percent level of “preferred resources,” that is non-fossil, as urged by many in Southern California. Commissioner Mike Florio, the decision’s author, said regulators wished San Onofre and expected coastal plant retirements could be replaced entirely with preferred resources, but given the complex electric grid in Southern California that was not possible. “Fossil fuel resources are needed to handle contingencies,” he added, noting the level of non-traditional resources ordered to partly fill the supply was “unprecedented.” Some clean energy advocates were dismayed. “While the utilities will be required to replace at least some of the power with preferred renewable resources, the commission has also authorized building more energy capacity than is necessary,” said Will Rostov, representing the Sierra Club. He added there were last minute changes to the decision that “appear to facilitate the opening of new gas-powered power plants, a clear step in the wrong direction when we’re striving to build more clean energy resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Of the 600 MW floor of local non-fossil energy resources set by the CPUC, 400 MW of that is to be in Southern California Edison territory and 200 MW in San Diego Gas & Electric territory (Current, Feb. 14, 2014). “I encourage the utilities to go beyond the minimum preferred resources requirement,” said Carla Peterman, CPUC member. She questioned the model that made assumptions about the timing and amount of needed local capacity resources—traditional and alternative—that are to be built to serve San Diego Gas & Electric and the regions of Southern California Edison territory served by San Onofre. The preferred resources approved this week are part of larger procurements authorized in the commission’s decision of 500-700 MW for Edison and up to 800 MW for SDG&E by 2022. This decision concludes the closely watched Track Four of the Long-Term Procurement Proceeding rulemaking focused on filling the gap from the nuke plant closure. This week’s ruling brings Edison’s authorized procurement for resources over more than 10 years to between 1,900-2,500 MW. SDG&E’s total authorization ranges from 800 to 1,100 MW, according to the decision, when combined with Track One of the earlier-approved commission long-term procurement proceeding. The capacity targets are to help fill the void in the West Los Angeles Basin left by the retirements of the San Onofre plant and nearly 5,700 MW of water-cooled power plants along the coast due in the years ahead. This week’s preferred resource mandate includes energy storage procurement, with SDG&E directed to buy 25 MW. Track 1 called for Edison to procure 50 MW of storage. Qualifying storage technology in these long-term resource purchases can include large pumped hydro.

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