Last year’s shuttering of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) set off a pitched debate about the region’s near- and long-term energy future. Now, despite ample opportunities to replace the power from SONGS with renewables, energy efficiency, demand response, and other pollution-free energy options, it appears San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is aiming to max out its procurement allowance with 600 MW of . . . natural gas. If approved, this massive contract for more fossil generation will be unjustified, inconsistent with state regulation, and come at a significant cost to ratepayers, public health and the climate.
Back in March, the California Public Utilities Commission directed utilities in Southern California to replace a small portion of the shuttered SONGS with clean options like solar and renewable energy, letting utilities decide how to fill the majority of the need. While the decision didn’t go nearly as far as it could have to support a transition to clean options, it at least urged utilities to look first at “preferred” clean resources and allowed for competitive bidding between these clean resources and their conventional counterparts. SDG&E apparently has no intention of even going that far..
After much wrangling from our conservation partners, SDG&E reluctantly shared its energy procurement plans. The utility is planning to sign an exclusive multi-billion dollar deal to purchase 600 MW of new gas generation – the maximum amount allowed by the Commission’s decision – without even allowing pollution-free sources to compete in an open bidding process.
In addition to flagrantly disregarding the Commission’s order for a competitive process, SDG&E’s plan for 600 MW of natural gas procurement does not account for recently approved transmission projects, which are expected to reduce local electricity needs by 800 to 1600 MW. SDG&E has done nothing to prove that there’s really a need for them to procure all that natural gas after California ratepayers have already covered the hefty cost of those transmission upgrades. Talk about a waste of customer dollars.
This rush for more natural gas would also have a big price tag for our climate. The California Air Resources Board has already reported an increase in climate pollution from natural gas generation in the wake of the SONGS closure. Permanently replacing that carbon-free (albeit plenty problematic) nuclear resource with more fossil power would put California even father behind in meeting its aggressive carbon reduction and clean energy targets. That’s a loss on climate progress that California simply can’t afford.
There is no reason to increase our dependence on the fossil fuels of the past when we can instead meet 100 percent of Southern California’s new energy needs reliably and affordably with clean options. Vote Solar is joining forces with advocates including the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to oppose this reckless plan. We urge state regulators and our utilities to show real leadership by intentionally and deliberately transitioning to clean energy.