Diablo Canyon closure the result of failed energy policies
July 18, 2016
OPINION by DAN CARPENTER
If you live anywhere on the Central Coast, you’re aware by now that on June 21, PG&E announced it will not seek relicensing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant when the licenses expire in 2024-2025. It’s my opinion this is a direct result of years of failed energy policies in the state of California.
PG&E in it’s announcement acknowledged that it will be unable to meet the renewable mandates by the state and had no other choice but to abandon nuclear energy production for a malaise of renewables. Just like that, 10 percent of the state’s energy supply will be gone. Coupled with the closure of San Onofre, California will be nuclear free having lost 20 percent of it’s electricity supply, not counting the additional lost energy from coal and other sources by way of state mandates.
To build the equivalent of a 2200-megawatt nuclear plant, a solar farm would require more than 20,000 acres, and a wind farm more than 100,000 acres. By contrast, Diablo Canyon is able to produce that much power and more on a footprint of 545 acres.
It’s irresponsible to think we can efficiently replace safe, low cost, greenhouse gas-free, reliable base load sources of power and operation at Diablo Canyon with renewables of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectricity. It’s vital we keep all carbon free electricity sources online as a future energy policy.
Our leaders have let us down.
California’s SB 350 requires the state to procure 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy and double energy efficiency savings by 2030. (Forbes – California’s Growing Imported Electricity Problem)
With this broken policy in effect, we are now importing 33 percent of our electricity supply from fast growing neighbor states. These numbers have been rising rapidly since 2010. According to the Energy Information Administration, California imports electricity because it’s power markets are relatively open and generation from outside the state is often less expensive.
Besides having the most expensive electricity west of the Mississippi, California already has the least reliable electricity. We easily lead the nation with nearly 470 power outages a year compared to 160 a year for second place Texas.
California’s reliability problem will be multiplied as more wind and solar enter into the power mix. Why so much imported energy…adjacent states don’t have the egregious energy policies of California. Our polices are having negative impacts on our neighbor states and they will cease to export at some point.
So, while we pump our chest about creating a “green” environment with our renewable energy fascination, we’re siphoning energy from our neighbors with less regulations. With renewed dependence on natural gas, it’s reasonable to expect a future with increased carbon emissions.
There is a growing population of environmentalist’s who want to save nuclear power in our country precisely for its zero-carbon attributes. They’re embracing nuclear energy as sustainable, reliable, zero emissions, safe, green power. Wholesale power from Diablo Canyon costs an average 4 cents per kilowatt-hour…..alternatively, wind power 7.4, solar 12.5 cents, solar thermal 24 cents. (Energy Information Administration – San Diego Union Tribune, Nuke Plan diverts billions from Climate Change, July 6, 2016)
For the past year, we’ve been hearing from 3rd District Supervisor Hill the promise of desalinated water from Diablo Canyon for the South County. He’s claimed numerous times that a PG&E executive said “yes” to him alone after a dinner in his home. Coincidentally, PG&E, a donor to Supervisor Hill’s reelection campaign, announced it’s intention to close just days after the primary election when Hill was not able to pull off a reelection victory.
Was this desalination subterfuge in hopes of gaining favor with the electorate knowing all along it would never come to fruition? This deception would go on to cost taxpayers $300,000, according to the Aug. 2015 Tribune article “Plan to pipe Diablo Canyon desalinated water to South County moves forward.” Also an additional $900,000, according to the March 2016 Tribune article “Diablo Canyon desalination expansion moves forward.”
Supervisor Hill’s reaction to Diablo Canyon closing is, “We cannot afford to be apathetic or behave like a broken-hearted lover bemoaning codependency.” It’s offensive and insulting to the thousands of men and woman who for decades have staked their livelihoods on the safe production of nuclear energy in our backyard.
Hill goes on to say a “terrific university” and being a “highly desirable place to live” will replace the loss of impact from this decision. His first solution is to become a “renewable energy hub.”
Renewables are undependable and will not replace the head-of-household jobs lost at Diablo Canyon and the $1 billion impact on our community. Hill also contends we should stop holding Sacramento accountable for their malfeasance because we just have to live with it.
Sounds no better than the broken narrative streaming from Sacramento.
Why Supervisor Hill, as the only supervisor in the state who has a nuclear power plant in their district didn’t you boldly support the relicensing of the plant as a matter of public policy? Why didn’t you ask your colleagues to include supportive policies in the county’s annual legislative platform?
Hill’s answer to the public, “Well, state policies led to Diablo not seeking relicensing, and regardless of the merits of those policies, our community didn’t have a say in the matter.”
Usually, when a city or county is faced with the closure or relocation of one of it’s primary employers, it pulls out all stops. The local elected officials will normally lead a massive campaign of advocacy. Did you have knowledge of the closing while the rest of the community was left in the dark? It’s time to update your job creation platform as it obviously lacks a plank for maintaining current head-of-household jobs.
Now that we know Diablo Canyon will close in 2024-25, it’s time to act and revisit The Diablo REsources Advisory Measure (DREAM Initiative – Measure A-2000 ) that was passed by 75 percent of county voters in March of 2000. An advisory measure that recognizes the Diablo Canyon Lands (including Wild Cherry Canyon) as an exceptionally precious coastal resource that should be maintained by adopting policies that promote habitat preservation, sustainable agricultural activities, and public use for enjoyment consistent with public safety and property rights.
The time has come to honor that commitment and take action. First, our county leaders must request that neither PG&E nor any subsidiary convey fee tittle to any development interest which is inconsistent with Measure A-2000. Second, request PG&E commit to the long-term protection and preservation of the Diablo Canyon Lands as one of many components in the larger effort to mitigate the closure, including cooperative efforts to pursue funding strategies to implement the elements of the plan. Third, participate in a county led strategic planning process to develop a plan for the best and highest use of the Diablo Canyon Lands consistent with Measure A-2000 once the plant has closed. Finally, encourage the CPUC to provide PG&E with any needed regulatory authorization for the timely conveyance of fee title to a local or state agency, or conservancy which can best help implement the goals of Measure A-2000.
As a lifelong resident of District 3, I’ve resided without concern in the shadows of Diablo Canyon. I want to thank the thousands of men and women for decades of safe, clean, reliable, low cost energy production without incident.
Dan Carpenter is a San Luis Obispo councilman and a candidate for the District 3 supervisor seat.