Guest essay by Eric Worrall
California has finally rejected a 2014 proposal to refurbish an ageing Edison Gas Plant used for grid stabilisation during peak power loads.
California rejects gas peaker plant, seeks clean energy alternatives
The California Public Utilities Commission rejected a refurbishment of the Southern California Edison’s Ellwood Peaker Plant, paving the way for a solar+storage solution instead.
OCTOBER 4, 2017
Critics of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Ellwood Peaker Plant are hailing the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) decision to reject unanimously a taxpayer-funded refurbishment of the plant, saying it affords the utility an opportunity to put more solar+storage into operation.
The CPUC also indicated that they would like to re-evaluate its approval of another gas peaker plant that has yet to be built.
“At this time, absent very compelling circumstances, we should be directing all of our investments in infrastructure and energy to clean energy resources,” said Clifford Rechtschaffen, one of the commissioners. “The proposed refurbishment is not a good use of ratepayer dollars.”
During the CPUC’s deliberations, the Clean Coalition, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid through technical, policy, and project development expertise, submitted its own analysis that it says proves solar+storage could replace the Ellwood gas plant at a far lower cost than refurbishing the older plant.
This decision follows a court ruling in April rejecting the application to refurbish the Ellwood plant, on the grounds that refurbishing the plant would not contribute to greater energy reliability.
PUC Judge Rejects Southern California Edison Bid to Refurbish Ellwood Peaker Plant
Non-binding ruling assert natural-gas-powered facility does not fit the requirements and goals of providing the area with greater energy reliability.
By Sam Goldman, Noozhawk Staff Writer April 24, 2017 | 6:41 p.m.
A California Public Utilities Commission judge has ruled against a Southern California Edison proposal to refurbish a natural-gas-powered “peaker” plant in Goleta that would have extended the facility’s lifespan by 30 years.
Administrative Law Judge Regina DeAngelis wrote in a non-binding ruling that other regional power-generators can better provide the extra energy resiliency the CPUC wants for the area, and that the plant may not be the most environmentally friendly source of emergency power during a local blackout.
“The record reflects that Ellwood is a highly polluting resource permitted to emit as much as 103.59 pounds per hour of nitrogen oxide — which is over 20 times the normal emission rate of a modern peaking unit with modern emission controls,” she wrote.
The proposal includes a 10-year contract calling for NRG to operate the plant under Edison’s direction.
Edison spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas told Noozhawk that the utility company is seeking “to continue operations at the Ellwood facility to be able to provide safe electrical grid operations in the event that high-voltage transmission lines are not available to serve the greater Santa Barbara area.”
Edison wanted to use the peaker plant to help meet this long-term capacity and reliability requirement, though the independent organization that oversees California’s bulk electric-power system considered it an existing source, according to DeAngelis.
Who in their right mind worries about whether a source of emergency power is “the most environmentally friendly source of emergency power“?
Do the people in charge of California’s electricity really think a little pollution is the most pressing issue, if a surge in demand or major outage deprives vital facilities such as hospitals and aged care homes of their electricity supply?
Words fail me over the commission’s acceptance that solar storage can replace hundreds of megawatts of reliable emergency backup power.
In my opinion this kind of idiocy likely makes the job of power engineers virtually impossible. Lets just say if I was a power engineer experiencing the despair of trying to stabilise the grid in such impossible circumstances, I would be dusting off my copy of “Atlas Shrugged“.