California regulators want to study alternatives to planned Puentes natural gas plant

Dive Brief:

  • The California Energy Commission has accepted an offer from the state's grid operator to consider alternatives to a planned natural gas plant in Ventura County.
  • The Puente Power Project is planned for a site located near the city of Oxnard, where SCE's 573 MW Mandalay Bay natural gas facility is located. Approval of the Puente project will accomodate retirement of the older plant.
  • The CEC's decision came just days after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said it would reconsider a $2.2 billion natural gas investment plan, and instead would first look to renewable resources.

Dive Insight:

​The California ISO had offered to conduct the study, and the CEC accepted the offer, according to a June 9 order  Such a review is a complex undertaking, but the commission asked the grid operator to be quick if possible.

In its order, the CEC wrote that it "understands development of such a study is normally a complex and intensive undertaking, but is hopeful that the California ISO will be able to derive a simplified set of assumptions that will allow the ISO to provide meaningful results within the Committee’s timeline."

The CEC wants to know by June 16 if the ISO will conduct the study, and then expects to receive an answer by July 19.

The Puentes project has faced scrutiny before: In February, several lawmakers sent a letter to the CEC saying regulators needed to "adequately justify" the need for the plant after addressing environmental concerns from residents.  Local residents had preferred to shutter the existing plant there and restore the beachfront.The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the Southern California Edison project last summer, with plans to have it online by 2020.

The Puentes owner and operator would be NRG Energy, and the Los Angeles Times reports the company issued a statement following the commission's decision pointing out that the CPUC signed off on the project just six months ago.

“Since that time, no additional feasible, cost-effective and available preferred resources have been identified that would eliminate the need for the Puente Power Project,” said NRG spokesman David Knox . “We appreciate the commission striving to keep the project on schedule and remain confident that additional studies will continue to confirm the need for the Puente Power Project.”

A large gas investment plan in the Los Angeles basin also came under regulatory scrutiny. In a presentation earlier this month, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners said it "has put on hold all planned local  repowering projects until a system-wide, in-depth, and independent study/analysis is conducted."

LADWP, the largest publicly-owned utility in the country, will first look to renewable resources to meet demand instead of following through with a $2.2 billion natural gas investment.

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Filed Under: Generation
Top image credit: Flickr; Alan Stark