REGION — The California Public Utilities Commission announced a proposed decision on Feb. 11 authorizing Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to replace 100 percent of the energy lost from the recently retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with new clean energy resources.
“This is a big development in what’s going to replace San Onofre,” Nathan Landers, regional communications manager for the Sierra Club, said. “If they replace it with all clean energy, that’s a huge deal and a huge part of the California energy mix.”
“However, the proposed decision also needlessly leaves the door open for utilities to propose the construction of new gas-fired plants in the future, which would constitute replacing a carbon-free energy resource with new fossil fuels,” Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign wrote in a press release.
“The Commission severely discounted the benefits of carbon-free solutions like improved transmission, demand response, distributed generation, and energy storage for meeting local energy needs,” Gillespie stated.
He noted the decision should be modified to incorporate those solutions to ensure SONGS is replaced with 100 percent clean energy.
“The San Onofre retirement should not be used as a foot-in-the-door for building more fossil fuel power plants,” Gillespie added.
Polls show a majority of Southern California residents support a clean energy solution, according to the Sierra Club. In January, a Sierra Club poll indicated a majority of electric customers in Orange and San Diego counties preferred the nuclear station be replaced by clean energy instead of gas-fired power plants.
“The Commission must act to ensure that the retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is a chance to move forward on clean energy, not backslide on fossil fuels and climate disruption,” Gillespie wrote.
According to the proposed decision, the two utilities must build a certain amount of clean energy options to replace SONGS — 200 megawatts for SDG&E and 400 for SCE.
“For the rest they could go to gas-fired plants, and they probably will,” Landers said. “But San Onofre can and should be replaced with 100 percent clean energy. That’s what the analysis says to us.
“This puts the ball in the court of the utilities,” he added. “It’s a big energy issue for all of California. It’s setting the stage for the energy mix in this state for decades.”
Stakeholders have 20 days to draft reply comments, followed by a five-day day period to draft a short response to comments from other stakeholders. The PUC is expected to vote on the proposal at the March 13 meeting.
On Feb. 5 the PUC unanimously approved construction of the Pio Pico Energy Center, a natural gas-powered facility in Otay Mesa.
The commission rejected the plans about a year ago but opted to allow the project with the closure of SONGS.