The licence for the San Onofre nuclear power plant is due to expire in 2022, and the Diablo Canyon plant will not be permitted to continue generating after 2024, unless it applies for a 20-year extension. The facilities have a combined nameplate capacity of around 4,300 MW.
California’s once-through cooling policy which will prevent power stations from releasing hot water into the sea will result in the retirement or modification of 16 power plants from as early as 2015. In addition to these retirements, California also has to meet its AB32 goals to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, said Karen Douglas, commissioner at the Californian Energy Commission.
Douglas told media at the Geothermal Energy Finance and Development Forum in San Francisco that CEC regulators were preparing plans to maintain grid capacity of 31,000 MW of peak load electricity.
She said: “This is getting back to long term thinking about how our electricity system is going to evolve – a combination of explicit state policies and obsolescence of current infrastructure. We have a current state policy to reduce our investments in the least efficient generation and we’re working with southern Californian utilities on their timeline for divesting from coal resources that they own. So we foresee only the need to backfill for resources that are covered by the once through cooling policy (OTC), but also coal resources that we’re currently dependent on.”
“We need to find a way to fulfill [power demand] once those plants are no longer operating,” she said. “As we think about our long-term climate goals we are considering the rate at which nuclear plants will be phased out of our system. Certainly utilities have plans and taken steps to get their licences extended for the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. However, none of us expect those plants to be around by 2050.”
Douglas said that the CEC’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan was “unapologetically looking at how to maximise the geothermal output … because of its smaller land footprint and it’s also baseload or dispatchable power. We’re looking at 8,000 MW just in our back of the envelope assumptions of what we can do.”