New power lines approved as aging Oxnard power plants ready for early exit
The operator of the state’s electrical grid has approved new transmission lines in and around Ventura County that are expected to meet nearly all the electricity needs created by the demise of Oxnard’s aging power plants.
A California Independent System Operator board approved a comprehensive transmission plan last week that includes a $45 million project to string new lines connecting existing transmission towers between Moorpark and Santa Clarita. The decision is the last regulatory approval to a plan submitted by Southern California Edison last year to generate electricity in lieu of gas-fired power plants.
The final approval makes the fates of fossil fuel proposals — the Puente Power Project in Oxnard and Mission Rock Energy Center near Santa Paula — even more dubious. Edison is no longer seeking power plant bids in the county.
“There’s no possibility for Puente. Now the (California Energy Commission) has everything it needs. There are feasible alternatives and it’s already going forward,” said Matt Vespa, an attorney for Earthjustice. “There are no paths forward for Puente or Mission Rock.”
NRG Energy Inc. is proposing to build a new power plant at its existing Mandalay Generating Station, which closed its gas-fired units late last year. The application to the state energy commission is suspended through May 1.
Meanwhile, Calpine Corp. is requesting the commission to suspend its application to build a new power plant outside of Santa Paula near the Santa Clara River. A committee of the commission is currently considering the request although opponents want the application pulled altogether.
Both proposed projects were supposed to meet a power need left with the scheduled closures of the Mandalay facility and another plant at Oxnard’s Ormond Beach. The aging plants owned by NRG were expected to go offline by 2020 as mandated by a state law that prohibits the use of ocean water to cool down operations.
But the closures appear to be taking place sooner than 2020. In December, NRG closed the three power plant units at Mandalay because it failed to get a contract with Edison. Earlier this month, NRG announced it plans to retire the Ormond facility in October due to economic reasons.
CaISO, which oversees the power grid, could decide against the retiring of the Ormond facility until the transmission lines are built.
“You can’t unilaterally exit the market,” Vespa said. “Those retirement announcements trigger a study by CaISO.”