The California Legislature has just taken the first step to possibly extending the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the state’s last atomic facility, past its scheduled closure.
The governor negotiated the energy trailer bill. Gavin Newsom’s administration, approved by lawmakers this week, distributes a reserve fund of up to USD 75 million to the state Department of Water Resources to extend the operation of ageing power plants scheduled for closure. Diablo Canyon, on the coast near San Luis Obispo, has stood preparing to shut down for more than five years.
California Budgets USD 75 million
The funding is part of a contentious bill that addresses a couple of Newsom’s most pressing concerns, maintaining the dependability of the state’s increasingly strained power grid and evading the politically damaging prospect of brownouts or blackouts.
Should the Newsom administration choose to extend the nuclear plant’s life, the funding would allow that, while the cost of keeping the 37-year-old facility owned by Pacific Gas and Electric is unknown. Newsom’s office and the Department of Water Resources did not immediately retort to multiple requests for comment. Asked for an estimate, Pacific gas and electric company (PG&E) spokesperson Lynsey Paulo did not provide one.
Even if only a contingency fund, the oculi of sending millions of state and federal dollars to the state’s largest utility which has a recent record of obligation for deadly wildfires and state ‘bailouts’, are politically challenging. Newsom announced that he signed the bill, which creates a reserve that he said will only be used in extreme events such as heatwaves and only as a last resort, as he stated in a letter issued to the state Assembly.
The governor directed the state’s Energy Commission, Air Resources Board and Department of Water Resources to work with other local, regional, and state agencies to certify clean energy projects to be prioritised over fossil fuels.
California attempts to move from a dependence on fossil fuels to achieve carbon neutrality
Lindsay Buckley, a spokesperson for the California Energy Commission, declared that the energy bill doesn’t itself authorise the extension of the plant’s life. However, it does provide the money should state leaders decide. Such a change would involve subsequent legislation and review and approval by state, local and federal regulatory entities.
Overall, the energy trailer bill seeks to address the thorny transition as California attempts to move from a dependence on fossil fuels to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. The legislation explained the state’s concern that, during extreme weather events, renewable energy alone would not be enough to meet the state’s rising power demand.
The state’s solution is to keep Diablo Canyon as open as reliable and pay to retrofit several mature fossil fuel facilities and backup power generation.
Laird said that the closing of Diablo Canyon had been years in the making, with hundreds of millions of dollars already committed for neutralising.
Since 1985, positioned on the state’s Central Coast, Diablo Canyon has been delivering power to the state’s electric grid. Its 2,240 megawatts of electricity generation are coarsely enough to support the needs of more than 3 million people.
In 2016, PG&E announced plans to close the nuclear plant, noticing that the transition to renewable energy would make continued operations too expensive. The California Public Utilities Commission approved the closure in the year 2018. Subsequently, the utility reached a settlement agreement with advocacy groups and environmentalists. The facility has two reactors: One reactor is panned to close in 2024, followed by the second in 2025.
PG&E stated provision for the change in its letter to the Energy Department Tuesday. However, it also urged the agency to give it an extension, adding that it is required to provide PG&E the time to collect and analyse the information and prepare an application.
Paulo stated that when the licenses expire in 2024 and 2025, the state’s current energy policy is to neutralise the plant. Still, considering the recent direction from the state, they have requested an extension of the application deadline. The Department of Energy funding will reduce costs to customers if the state decides it needs to preserve the option to keep the plant open to help grid reliability.
On Monday, a coalition of 37 entrepreneurs, scientists, and academics sent a letter to Energy Secretary Granholm expressing backing for the Department of Energy’s proposal. Supporters insist the funds are essential to keep the plant open and advance the state’s goals of receiving a carbon-neutral economy while battling climate change.
The letter said that failing to pass this amendment could lead to the plant’s closure considering their climate crisis. They are in a rush to decarbonise and hopefully save their planet from the worsening effects of climate change.
California is facing sharp hurdles in addressing its power supply challenges as the climate crisis strengthens and the state transitions to renewable energy. Soaring temperatures and heat waves have been hitting the state over the recent years, straining supply and increasing the risk of power outages. In addition, a prolonged drought has depleted hydropower sources, while more frequent wildfires also threaten the state’s electrical infrastructure.
The state’s energy trailer bill, which was negotiated as part of the budget process, pointedly enlarges the authority of the Energy Commission and Department of Water Resources to streamline electric power projects. The bill grants the water agency the authority to site, construct and operate power facilities wherever required, and does not involve the agency in complying with existing state or local laws.
The commission issues operating licenses for nuclear power reactors to work for up to 40 years and permits renewal for an additional 20 years at a time.