Environmentalists’ plan to close California’s last nuclear power plant and replace it with green energy could end up costing state residents dearly, according to analysts.
Replacing Diablo Canyon power plant with solar energy, for example, could cost $15 billion based on current prices, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s on top of the $3.8 billion that Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) estimates it will cost to decommission to power plant.
“If you were to take all the energy from Diablo Canyon and say, ‘I want to replace that with solar,’ this is an estimate of that investment,” energy analyst Rob Barnett told Bloomberg.
Environmentalists cheering Diablo Canyon’s demise, however, don’t seem to care about the high cost energy PG&E will have to use to replace the power plant. As part of its agreement with eco-activists and unions, PG&E will fully shutdown Diablo Canyon by 2025, and replace it with solar power, wind power and energy efficiency programs.
Diablo Canyon provides 9 percent of California’s electricity production, and with the state dealing with an already strained grid, shutting down one-tenth of the Golden State’s power supply could pose more problems. Environmentalists were still happy.
— NRDC (@NRDC) June 22, 2016
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was one of two environmental groups that forced PG&E to agree to not not extend Diablo Canyon’s operating permit when it expires in 2025.
NRDC, like many eco-groups, is opposed to nuclear power over safety concerns, and because it prevents more solar and wind power from being dumped onto the grid. Nuclear power plant output can’t easily be turned up and down to accommodate intermittent green energy production.
“Energy efficiency has long ago been proven to be the cleanest, cheapest, and fastest energy resource for California,” NRDC’s Peter Miller wrote in an article after Diablo Canyon’s closure was announced.
“Building codes and appliance standards ensure that all new homes and appliances get more efficient year after year,” he wrote. “Utility programs help customers reduce their demand for electricity and drive the adoption of more efficient equipment, homes, and offices.”
PG&E said California’s hefty green energy mandate made it harder to operate Diablo Canyon, as did a doubling of state energy efficiency mandates.
“California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy,” PG&E CEO Tony Earley said in a statement. “As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required.”
But not all environmentalists are convinced closing Diablo Canyon is a good idea. Mike Shellenberger with Environmental Progress has been critical of eco-activists opposed to nuclear power.
Shellenberger says closing Diablo Canyon is actually a step backward for eco-activists who care about global warming. Nuclear plants don’t produce any greenhouse gases, and when they are closed, are most often replaced by natural gas.
“So all the efficiency and renewables the proposal mandates—or vaguely promises—would leave PG&E’s energy mix slightly dirtier in 2045 than it was in 2015—no progress at all for 30 years because of Diablo’s closure,” he wrote.
“Despite green groups’ claims that nuclear power can be easily replaced by wind, solar and energy efficiency, recently closed plants from Vermont Yankee to California’s San Onofre have been replaced overwhelmingly with fossil-fueled power,” he wrote. “With Diablo Canyon, at least they are admitting ahead of time that renewables can’t do the job.”
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