The California Public Utilities Commission should reject calls to delay adding new power supplies in the state even though the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s impending retirement may be put on hold, according to the California Independent System Operator.
CAISO also supports a recommendation from the CPUC’s Public Advocates Office that the commission authorize immediate procurements to address system needs from 2026 through 2030, the grid operator said in comments it filed at the commission on Thursday.
“Recent procurement authorization does not actually meet all of the needs of the 2021 Preferred System Plan, and load growth is rapidly increasing,” CAISO said in explaining the need for additional near-term procurement. “Extreme weather and load conditions will eventually be incorporated into future load forecasts, thereby increasing overall planning requirements.”
The CPUC is considering creating a procurement program for reliable and clean resources, including possibly ordering utilities and other load-serving entities to buy near-term power supplies to make up for project delays in previous procurements.
CAISO and other parties last week filed reply comments on an “options paper” CPUC staff developed. An initial round of comments was triggered by a request for input from a CPUC administrative law judge, including on the possible need for near-term procurements.
A recently established electricity reliability reserve fund and legislation that could delay the retirement of the 2,200-MW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant cannot be part of the CPUC’s integrated resource planning process, according to CAISO.
The reserve fund is designed to address extreme weather events outside of IRP planning and the Diablo Canyon legislation prohibits including the nuclear power plant in the CPUC’s planning process, the grid operator said.
The CPUC should also order load-serving entities to line up resources for 2026 through 2030 as soon as possible to help reduce any potential delays caused by bottlenecks such as grid interconnection studies, according to CAISO.
“LSEs should make every effort to procure resources in locations the CAISO has identified as needing few if any upgrades or where transmission is under development,” the grid operator said. “Forward planning and increased awareness of system conditions will alleviate some of the bottlenecks.”
The Environmental Defense Fund supported CAISO’s call to speed up resource procurement to 2024 at the latest to replace projects that are not yet online, according to comments the group filed with the CPUC.
EDF said a proposal by the CPUC’s Public Advocates Office for interim procurements from 2026 through 2030 has merit, but it would be better to set permanent rules governing the procurement process.
“EDF is seriously concerned with the Commission becoming stuck in an endless cycle of issuing ad hoc, interim procurement orders, in lieu of establishing a durable, programmatic approach to procurement,” the group said.
The California Environmental Justice Alliance and Sierra Club urged the CPUC to swiftly conduct a study to determine California’s near-term electricity needs, according to joint comments.
“Without clear Commission action soon, California could end up in the same situation it did this summer when it dropped health-protective air pollution requirements and paid dirty backup generators to operate,” the groups said. “There is no evidence that prior [CPUC] orders or the next phase of this proceeding will ensure sufficient clean, zero-emissions procurement that will meet needs during the next few years.”
The CPUC should wait for the study results before ordering any procurements for 2026 through 2030, the groups said.