Southern California Faces Some Energy Choices

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With the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and Once-Through-Cooling plants, Southern California Edison has serious local capacity constraints. So much so that that SCE is warning their customers that blackouts will result if they don’t conserve energy. The question is: what’s the long term solution? Will it be increased renewable distributed generation and energy efficiency, or will it be new natural gas turbines on old OTC sites? It’s a decision with serious consequences.

The venue for deciding on the appropriate long-term solution is the Long Term Planning Process at the California Public Utilities Commission. In this docket, the California Independent System Operator and SCE have been pushing new fossil-fuel generation (and lots of it) – essentially locking in a heavy reliance on natural gas for the foreseeable future. Vote Solar served testimony (pdf) proposing a solution that would rely on preferred resources first, such as renewable distributed generation, CHP, demand response and energy efficiency–maximizing the good stuff, then filling in with dispatchable resources as (and if) needed. We think this type of effort can deliver a solution that serves local reliability needs, and does so in the most environmentally beneficial way. Oh — it also complies with state rules establishing the loading order.

Unfortunately, SCE moved to strike the proposal, and yesterday, the Administrative Law Judge granted their petition on the basis that it was just “too big” to tackle at this juncture. As a result, it appears that the LTPP will not now seriously consider specific alternatives to an all-source Request for Offers – a process that is heavily weighted towards building what could be as much as 3,000 MW of new combined cycle gas turbines and combustion turbines (peakers)–read our testimony as to why.

This comes at a time that SCE is fighting or limiting many of the policies that would result in a solar solution. They are fighting to limit net metering, they are fighting to limit renewable feed-in tariffs, and on July 27, SCE filed a petition to modify their utility-owned rooftop solar program to reduce local rooftop generation.

We worry that procurement and policy options are being whittled down so that there are no options other than building new fossil generation on the old OTC sites, and this is to the detriment of California’s environment and ratepayers.

If you want a renewable solution, you need to put a renewable procurement policy in place. It’s as simple as that. We’ll keep fighting, but the process just took a turn for the worse.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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