A committee made up of energy, and coastal agency, and grid operator officials is calling for extending the lives of four aging power plants on the Southern California coast. The plants harm the marine environment because they use large amounts of seawater to cool spinning turbines.
The closure dates on three of the four plants were previously extended by three years.
The cost of keeping the natural gas-fired plants online longer would be covered by part of the $3 billion allocated to keep existing fossil fuel power plants running in the newly created Strategic Reliability Plan. The Department of Water Resources holds this reserve’s purse strings.
The “extensions would be responsive to concerns regarding grid reliability and would bolster the electrical power supply that is essential for the welfare of the residents of the State of California,” according to the State Advisory Committee on Cooling Water Intake Structures’ Sept. 19 proposal.
It recommends the 1,137 MW Alamitos, 1,491 MW Ormond Beach and 226 MW Huntington Beach facilities in Southern California owned by merchant generators stay online another three years, to the end of 2026.
This would be the second three-year extension of the seawater-cooled power plants, with a combined capacity of 2,854 MW. They were slated for closure back in 2010 because the plants’ intakes suck in water and expel heated wastewater, harming sea life. The committee does not propose keeping the Redondo Beach plant online an additional three years.
The once through cooling committee also recommends keeping the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 324 MW Scattergood units 1 and 2 online an additional five years, moving the closure date from Dec. 31, 2024, to the end of 2029.
The earlier plant extensions faced vigorous opposition, particularly that of AES’s Huntington Beach plant because of promises made to close the plant on the very popular beach. The mayor of the City of Huntington Beach opposed the first plant extension back in 2020, noting that policymakers had 10 years to prepare for the closures. “We’re going to continue our opposition to any extension,” Mayor Bill Brand stated more than two years ago.
The committee cites the updated state energy reliability analysis that concluded that more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts, as well as supply chain constraints, are driving the need for the coastal power plant extensions. It highlights the finding that there could be a 10,000 MW shortage by the summer of 2025.
The water board will hold a public hearing on the draft plan’s proposed coastal plant extensions on Sept. 30.