The California Energy Commission (CEC) voted Wednesday to delay the closure of three gas-fired power plants in Southern California due to concerns that doing so prematurely could elevate the risks of blackouts, according to The Associated Press.
The CEC made the decision to extend the life of the plants through 2026, rather than by the end of this year as initially planned, so that they can be available to stave off blackouts during periods of elevated demand and emergencies, according to the AP. The plan to delay the closures still needs approval by vote from the California State Water Resources Control Board, which could happen as early as next week, according to the AP.
The three facilities in the decision’s purview— AES Alamitos, AES Huntington Beach and GenOn’s Ormond Beach Generating Station— are needed to meet excess demand in situations like heat waves, when energy demand skyrockets as residents use more energy to power their appliances and keep cool, according to the AP. The vote drew the ire of activists and proponents of green energy technology, who say that the state needs to go further to develop and incentivize the transition to power sources like solar and wind. (RELATED: California’s Grid Braces For Failure Just Days After Biden’s Energy Secretary Praises State’s Green Policies)
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“As long as we have these gas plants online, we never really have to invest in clean energy solutions,” Sierra Club campaigner Teresa Cheng said, according to the AP. Activists like Cheng have called on the state to further develop a program that pays Californians to decrease their energy use during periods of heightened demand, the AP reported.
California received about 37% of its electricity from green technologies in 2021, a marked increase from the 3% observed in 2020, according to the AP. The CEC’s decision reflects a lack of confidence in the performance of the California grid in times of elevated demand.
“AES is committed to supporting the energy needs of local communities with flexible and innovative solutions,” Mark Miller, AES’s California market business leader, told the DCNF. “If approved by the State Water Resource Control Board, AES will continue our commitment to ensure safe and reliable operations of the Alamitos and Huntington Beach Stations,” he continued, adding that “the extensions will help provide grid reliability in the case of emergency events, as the state moves toward zero-carbon energy solutions.”
California’s grid operator issued “Flex Alerts” over a ten-day period in September 2022, which urged Californians to crank up their thermostats during the late afternoon and evening hours to conserve energy amid a heatwave that strained the state’s power grid.
“We need to move faster in incorporating renewable energy. We need to move faster at incorporating battery storage. We need to build out chargers faster,” CEC Commissioner Patricia Monahan said, according to the AP. “We’re working with all the energy institutions to do that, but we are not there yet.”
In June, a top Federal Energy Regulatory Commission official warned that “catastrophic consequences” may await the U.S. if the country continues to retire fossil fuel-fired power plants before green energy alternatives are sufficiently developed to make up the lost capacity.
“When we talk about reliability, it’s just not one thing. It’s demand. It’s supply,” CEC Commissioner and Vice Chair Siva Gunda said Wednesday, according to CEC staff. “It’s making sure we have backup assets in our pocket and also making sure we are doing the planning right and creating a just transition.”
Representatives for GenOn did not respond immediately to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. The California State Water Resources Control Board declined to comment.
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