The Local Clean Energy Alliance and twenty-six other organizations throughout California have signed on to a letter urging Governor Brown to oppose California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) recent approval of the Oakley gas-fired power plant in Contra Costa County, and stop the pending approval of other fossil fuel-based power plants in southern California.
These projects frustrate attempts to curb greenhouse gas production in California and undercut California’s ambitious renewable energy goals; goals that have been championed by Governor Brown.
If operated around the clock, the 600 megawatt (MW) Oakley plant would emit about 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) per year. Currently, the energy consumed in all of Alameda County’s buildings (residences, commercial, and industrial) together is responsible for the production of about 5 million metric tons of GHGs. The Oakley plant would therefore negate all efforts to curb GHG emissions from energy use in buildings within the county.
PG&E will pay 1.5 billion dollars for the Oakley plant, meaning that rate-payers will face a $223 million a year bill for the next 30 years. Efforts to launch Community Choice energy programs will be hampered by increased exit fees charged by PG&E as a result of the purchase.
The letter to Brown argues that the money spent for the Oakley Plant could be used to develop renewable sources of electricity, moving California closer to its goal of 12,000 MW of local renewable generation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating more jobs than the gas-fired alternative. Furthermore, investing in local renewables would not lead to the air quality problems associated with gas-fired generators, and the attendant health problems to the surrounding communities.
The approval of Oakley by the CPUC came in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of any need for the additional electricity produced by the plant, even if the older gas-fired plants in Antioch and Pittsburgh are shut down. California operates with a reserve margin of electric generating capacity above 30% even during times of high demand, even without any new gas-fired power plants. Though it has been suggested that California will need increased back-up generation as more renewable sources are brought online, there has been no study to support this contention.
The Oakley plant is only the first of several proposed new natural gas-fired generating plants totaling 2,000 MW of capacity, which include the Pio Pico plant in San Diego and an additional 1,000 MW of gas-fired generation in the Los Angeles Area. If all these projects are approved by the CPUC and become operational they would simply continue the poisoning of frontline communities and undermine efforts to address climate change.