California rejects gas peaker plant, seeks clean energy alternatives

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.

To provide a turn-key option for the CPUC to consider, the group has proffered a feed-in tariff (FIT) that includes a market responsive pricing mechanism to ensure maximum savings for ratepayers, as well as an energy-storage incentive.

“The Clean Coalition’s FIT is designed to procure and deploy cost-effective renewables and energy storage much more quickly than auctions, which are sometimes burdened by excessive preparation requirements, transaction costs and failure rates,” said Craig Lewis, executive director of the Clean Coalition. “A well-designed FIT will bring cost-effective renewables and energy storage online well ahead of the 2020 need for these resources in the Ellwood plant service area.”

The CPUC made its decision at its Sept. 28 meeting.