CEC Chair to Step Down; El Segundo Repower Approved

By Published On: February 5, 2005

William Keese, California Energy Commission chair, announced that he will resign March 4. At the commission?s February 2 business meeting, Keese offered few details, saying only that he had considered the move before Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took office last year. Appointed chair in 1997 by Governor Pete Wilson, Keese steered the agency through Republican and Democratic administrations. He said that he has been tapped to work as cochair of the Western Governors? Association?s Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee. The group aims to implement the proposal promoted by Schwarzenegger and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson to develop 30,000 MW of clean generation in the West, which includes ?clean? coal. Commissioner John Geesman said the ?renewed stature? of the CEC in the last two years can be ?directly attributed? to Keese?s contributions. As Keese prepared to exit, the governor appointed Art Rosenfeld for a second five-year term. No mention was made of candidates to fill the chair?s slot. In other news, the commission approved an amended decision granting repowering of the El Segundo power plant, apparently to give the plan legal teeth. After being tweaked several times, El Segundo got the nod in December to develop a combined-cycle gas-fueled unit at a total capacity of 630 MW. The revised plan includes language stating that the project is needed for the public good and that there are no more prudent and feasible alternatives. Last month, Geesman recommended changes to bolster the previous decision?s finding that the Coastal Commission plays a role in planning but its recommendations to use seawater to cool the plant are ?infeasible.? The commission also voted to award a contract totaling about $249,000 to spur development of the Western Renewable Energy Generation System. The commission and the Western Governors? Association are overseeing the program, which will track and verify renewable generation in 11 Western states, two Canadian provinces, and Baja California, Mexico. New funds will be used to purchase software and hire staff to operate the system. Overall, the commission provides $1.35 million annually to support the system, according to Chris Davis, CEC spokesperson. By a conservative estimate, the system is expected to be up and running by the end of 2006, he added. In other action, a hefty contract worth up to $1.6 million was awarded to test software aimed at improving grid reliability. The demo project will perform what is known as ?fast voltage security assessment,? which refers to enhancing reliability by stabilizing electricity. Recommendations to change certain distributed-generation interconnection rules were also adopted. Implementation of standardized rules would eliminate the roadblock to safe and cost-effective deployment of noncentralized power projects. New amendments offered this week include establishment of a utility tracking and reporting system to provide data on distributed-generation interconnection costs. The ideas are expected to be incorporated into the California Public Utilities Commission?s current distributed generation proceeding. Finally, SDG&E withdrew its appeal of the denial of its request for confidential treatment for load pricing forecast data submitted for the commission?s 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report. The commission agreed with SDG&E?s idea of collaborating, along with other investor-owned utilities, on devising a framework for future confidential IEPR filings. Energy supply information that includes a request for confidentiality but is deemed public won?t be returned to utilities, the commission stated in a memo at the end of last year (<i>Circuit</i>, Dec. 17, 2004). SDG&E had protested the decision, arguing that the information under scrutiny is commercially sensitive.

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