It’s been nearly a decade since California ordered coastal power plants to stop using seawater for cooling, a process that kills fish and other marine life.
But now state officials may extend the life of several facilities that still suck billions of gallons from the ocean each day.
Staff at the California Public Utilities Commission recommended this month that four natural gas plants in Southern California, which are now required to shut down in 2020, be allowed to keep operating up to three additional years. Without the gas plants, PUC staff said, the state may face power shortfalls as soon as summer 2021 — specifically on hot days when energy demand remains high after the sun goes down and solar farms stop generating electricity.
Energy regulators aren’t panicked, since there’s still time to make up for the expected shortfall.
And critics say shortages are unlikely and regulators are being overly conservative.
Still, the PUC’s proposal highlights increasingly urgent questions about how much natural gas California should continue to allow on its electric grid, and for how long. The state now gets one-third of its electricity from renewable sources, and state law requires 100% climate-friendly energy by 2045.
Burning natural gas contributes to the climate crisis. But it’s also California’s largest power source.
California could face power shortages if these gas plants shut down, officials say, by Sammy Roth, The Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2019.