Pacific Gas and Electric has announced that it would cease with any and all activities intended to extend the operating licenses of the company’s two reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) beyond their original expiration dates of 2024 and 2025. In exchange, the state would agree to renew the plant’s leases in the short term and drop the requirement for costly new cooling towers.
The closure is also part of an agreement with labor and environmental organizations in which the utility agrees to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable power, and electricity storage to offset the power that will no longer be produced by the nuclear plant. However, this will be quite an undertaking since Diablo Canyon supplies 9% of California’s electric needs or about 17,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.
PG&E officials said its decision to close Diablo Canyon was influenced by several factors. Among them a state policy requiring utilities to increase renewables in their portfolios to 50 percent by 2030; the subsequent growth of solar and wind production; and the loss of customers because of community choice aggregation, which allows local jurisdictions to group power purchases to lower prices.
Diablo Canyon is the last nuclear power plant operating in California since San Onofre was shutdown in 2012. The plant employs nearly 1,500 workers and contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy, according to the Economic Vitality Corp. It is San Luis Obispo County’s largest private industry employer, with an average annual salary of $157,000 in 2014, according to PG&E.
All of this will still require California’s regulators to approve the plan. Perhaps they will think of an alternative like…….keeping Diablo Canyon operating and ramp up renewables and efficiency changes as planned to displace fossil generation elsewhere…….furthering the overall increase in zero carbon emissions. Wouldn’t that be better all around?