Letter to the Editor: CPUC responds to commentary on Diablo Canyon


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would like to respond to the April 4, 2022, op-ed by Californians for Green Nuclear Power in Capitol Weekly, titled, Closing Diablo Canyon spurs fears over replacement power.

It is highly inaccurate to suggest that the State plans to replace Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant mostly with Wyoming coal-fired generation.  In fact, the State has ordered an unprecedented amount of new clean energy procurement—11.5 gigawatts—to replace the retirement of Diablo Canyon (along with other aging gas plants that are retiring).  This includes wind, solar, batteries, geothermal, and long duration storage that will be online starting in 2023.

The op-ed is misleading or inaccurate in several other respects.

First, “unspecified imports” is not a euphemism for out of state coal.  This term refers to energy imported from outside California that is not tied to a specific resource through a specific contract.  Imports of this type have long been flowing into California, primarily in the form of hydroelectric power from the northwest.  The greenhouse gas (GHG) content of energy available on the grid in the west and imported into California has been decreasing over time, as nearby states retire their coal plants and renewable generation in the west has increased. California has strict reporting requirements for imported electricity and specifically limits the GHG content of long-term contracts.

The CPUC’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) program is designed to meet the state’s GHG reduction goals, and over time the program has adopted more and more stringent GHG reduction targets.  IRP modeling includes unspecified import emissions as counting towards the GHG target when producing optimal electric resource portfolios, which means that out-of-state resources are not “hiding” GHG emissions from outside of California.

Finally, Energy Gateway, the transmission network referred to as the ‘second clue,’ consists of three transmission projects, none of which connect to California. This network is designed to connect PacifiCorp West (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) with PacifiCorp East (Utah and Wyoming).  Since these projects do not interconnect to California, they cannot “bring coal” into the state.  Further, California ratepayers are not paying for any part of this development. On the other hand, the CPUC and the California Independent System Operator are assessing various options for connecting out-of-state wind and geothermal resources to the California grid through formal transmission and resource planning efforts.

Peter Skala,
San Francisco

Editor’s Note: Peter Skala is the interim deputy executive director for Energy & Climate Policy at the California Public Utilities Commission.

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