State Utility Regulators Call For 11.5 GW of New Resources by 2026

By Published On: May 25, 2021

Two competing California Public Utilities Commission proposals would require utilities, community energy and other provider investments in a combined 11,500 megawatts to come online between 2023 and 2026 to ensure a solid and far less polluting grid. About one tenth would come from fossil-fueled power.

One proposal, by Administrative Law Judge Julie Fitch, would okay 1,150 MW of the new resources to come from natural gas plants under contracts no longer than 10 years. The alternate proposal by Commissioner Cliff Rechtschaffen would limit fossil power to 500 MW under contracts up to five years. He also would allow private utilities to buy another 300 MW of gas-fired power if partly fueled by green hydrogen—30% by 2026 and 50% by 2031. In addition, Rechtschaffen’s proposal would exclude gas power from plants in polluted poor communities and from renovated shuttered inefficient power plants.

Fitch and Rechtschaffen state that they sympathize with clean air representatives who insist that new fossil generation be excluded to reduce emissions. But the two say gas plants are needed for reliability. They also add California is striving for a level of renewables that is higher than any other place in the world.

By 2026, the new resources are to include 1,000 MW of storage that can supply power for 8-12 hours. Another 1,000 MW is to come from geothermal or another renewable baseload resource. Both are to provide power during net peak, from 5-10 PM.

“We are encouraged that the CPUC has finally recognized the urgent need for a large, multi-year procurement of zero carbon resources,” V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies executive director, said. He also welcomed the addition of geothermal and long duration storage because it promotes portfolio diversity. “Ensuring transmission access and deliverability will be key issues that need attention and focus,” he added.

Replacing Diablo and seawater cooled plants

The 11,500 MW of new electricity resources are to include 2,400 MW of non-polluting power to replace the 2,280 MW Diablo Nuclear Power Plant slated for full shut down in 2025. One of the plant’s two units, however, has been wracked with problems and been forced offline a handful of times the last several months, including in late April.

Another 3,744 MW is to fill the supply gap left by retiring gas fired power plants on the coast that use large quantities of seawater to cool hot spinning turbines. They are required to shut down because the plant intakes and spilled hot water harm fish, seals, and other sea creatures.

Both of the CPUC proposals aim to lower greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade to 38 million metric tons.

In March, Fitch had proposed increasing resources mid-decade by 7,500 MW, with only one third being carbon free. It aimed to meet the CPUC target of 46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The Fitch and Rechtschaffen new proposals would raise the planning reserve margin from 17.5 % to 20.7% on an interim basis. A permanent margin will subsequently be set after studies fully explore the issue. The decisions also decline to address the re-contracting of preferred reliability resources that will soon expire.

By 2023, there are to be 3,500 MW of new resources online, another 4,500 MW in 2024, and 2,000 MW in each of the following two final years.

7.4 GW of resource adequacy

Of the total new resources, 7,410 MW are to provide resource adequacy—4,146 MW, 2,951 MW and 313 MW, respectively over the three years. Imports that help provide supply cushions can count toward that total.


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Source: CPUC

The decision divides the proposed new resource mandate proportionally among the investor-owned utilities, community energy and direct access providers. It also allows providers to jointly invest in resources. Last October, eight community energy providers joined forces on a solicitation for 500 MW of Long duration storage.

The minimum procurements among the largest providers are as follows:

  • 2,180 MW by Pacific Gas & Electric.
  • 453 MW from direct access providers in PG&E territory.
  • 4,078 MW by Southern California Edison.
  • 496 MW from SCE direct access providers.
  • 770 MW by San Diego Gas & Electric.
  • 165 MW from SDG&E direct access providers.
  • 679 MW by Clean Power Southern California.
  • 391 MW by East Bay Community Energy.
  • 322 MW by Marin Clean Energy.
  • 322 MW from Monterey Bay Clean Power Authority.
  • 260 MW from San Jose Clean Energy.
  • 209 MW by Peninsula Clean Energy.
  • 180 MW by Clean Power San Francisco.

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