CPUC Backs PG&E Plan to Retire Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant.
California regulators have approved Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E’s) application to retire the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by year-end 2025, ending a protracted battle over the generating station that pitted local economic interests against environmentalists and other opponents of nuclear power.
The state Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on January 11 voted unanimously to accept PG&E’s request to decommission the two reactors at the plant near Avila Beach when operating licenses for the units expire in November 2024 and August 2025, respectively. The 2,256-MW plant is the lone remaining operating nuclear facility in California.
The CPUC also authorized PG&E to recover from ratepayers $241.2 million in costs associated with the retirement: $211.3 million to keep employees until the plant in closed; $11.3 million to retrain displaced workers; and $18.6 million for operating license renewal costs.
CPUC President Michael Picker, the commissioner assigned to today’s proceeding, said “Diablo Canyon has been a source of reliable and clean electricity, and employment, in San Luis Obispo [County] for many years now. But the plant is no longer economic, and the owner, PG&E, has asked to close it down. We looked hard at all the arguments, and the Commission agrees that the time has come. We have laid out a fair and reasonable pathway to clean power replacement, as well as a program for retaining skilled workers over the course of the next seven years.”
Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, among those voting in favor of PG&E’s application, said closing Diablo Canyon “moves California away from the era of nuclear power and toward the era of zero-carbon renewable energy.”
“Given the long transition time we have here … [and] the severance package and increased amount allocated toward worker retention, I believe it is a reasonable and prudent package we are approving,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen.
PG&E in a statement said: “The Diablo Canyon Power Plant joint proposal represented a significant milestone in the planning to meet California’s ambitious clean energy vision. We appreciate the CPUC’s thoughtful consideration of this complex issue and its approval of certain elements.”
Renewables, Storage, Efficiency Programs
PG&E has said it will increase its use of renewable energy and energy storage, and expand energy efficiency programs, to replace the lost nuclear power. California’s landmark 2015 energy law requires power companies to produce 50% of their electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, by 2030.
Administrative Law Judge Peter Allen, assigned by the CPUC to hear arguments concerning the plant’s retirement, in 2017 said the utility should “be prepared to present scenarios for Diablo Canyon retirement in the Integrated Resource Planning proceeding that demonstrate no more than a de minimis increase in the GHG emissions of its electric portfolio.”