California Independent System Operator Determines Puente Gas Plant on California Coast is Not Needed
California’s clean energy revolution will overtake proposed plant in the next decade but Energy Commission considers approving new fossil fuel power plant to last 40 years in Oxnard
Puente is a proposed 262 megawatt (MW) natural gas power plant on the coast in Oxnard that has long been opposed by environmental justice and environmental groups as well as the City of Oxnard due to its exacerbation of environmental injustice, vulnerability to coastal flooding from sea level rise, and divergence from California’s climate goals. As part of an environmental review currently underway by the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) released a study yesterday that identifies alternatives to meeting local energy needs that do not require investments in new gas plants like Puente. CAISO is the entity charged with maintaining the reliability of California’s electric grid.
In lieu of Puente, CAISO determined that the region’s reliability needs could be substantially reduced through deployment of additional distributed resources such as renewables paired with energy storage and demand response technologies that enable customers to lower energy demand when called upon. Remaining need could be met through a combination of energy storage or devices such as advanced inverters or synchronous condensers that provide grid stability. The study also noted that existing generation, such as the 130 MW Mandalay 3 facility, which owner NRG has stated is “capable of operating well into the future,” could remain operational until alternative resource solutions are deployed.
“For generations, the fossil fuel industry has used Oxnard as a sacrifice zone for polluting power plants under the pretense that we had no better alternatives.” said Lucas Zucker, Policy and Communications Director at Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE). “This analysis shows that a better future is possible if the California Energy Commission decides that Oxnard deserves it. This is what our community has been saying all along. The people of Oxnard are counting on our state policymakers to stop the Puente project and pursue clean energy solutions to power our region.”
“CAISO’s study confirms there are many paths to meet Oxnard’s reliability needs without resorting to a new gas plant at risk from sea level rise,” said Matt Vespa, Staff Attorney at Earthjustice (representing the Sierra Club). “Puente simply doesn’t make sense for the community, the grid, or the climate. The Energy Commission must reject the Puente natural gas power plant so investments can be directed to the clean, renewable energy Oxnard deserves.”
CAISO’s analysis will now be subject to comment in the CEC’s Puente proceeding with a hearing in mid-September. For the CEC to approve Puente, it must make a finding that there are no feasible alternatives to the facility. The CEC will likely make a decision on Puente later this year.
Resources and background for reporters:
- California Independent System Operator’s study, issued August 16, 2017: Puente Power Project – Moorpark Sub-Area Local Capacity Alternative Study
- “Energy Commission Review of Puente Gas Plant Tests California’s Resolve” by Matt Vespa
- “Dirty Power’s Last Stand in California” by Lucas Zucker
- Fusion video on the Oxnard community’s fight against Puente:
- Union of Concerned Scientists: “Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas”
- Los Angeles Times investigation into California’s recent power plant glut
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