PG&E doesn’t want to talk about its post-closure plans for Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant or requests to close the facility early, but it does want to discuss how to replace the lost power with greenhouse gas-free and energy-efficient resources.
The utility company filed its official response Monday to the 29 comments and protests filed by various community groups and organizations since PG&E announced its plan in June to not relicense its two nuclear reactors when they expire in 2024 and 2025.
The closure plan was part of a joint proposal with labor and environmental organizations that the company said would increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable power and electricity storage to offset power lost by the Diablo Canyon shutdown.
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A timely resolution in this proceeding is critical and thus it should not become a catch-all for every Diablo Canyon-related issue.
PG&E response to the California Public Utilities Commission
Under the agreement, PG&E would pay San Luis Obispo County nearly $50 million to offset declining property values through 2025. The company has also proposed an employee program that would retain and retrain employees through the decommissioning process.
The closure plan is contingent upon CPUC approval, with hearings expected to begin by the end of the year and a final decision in mid-2017.
In its response on Monday, the company outlined what it believed was “within the scope” of the CPUC’s proceeding, and asked for other outside issues to be removed from consideration.
“There are a handful of contested issues that need to be addressed in this proceeding and a number of concerns raised that PG&E believes are out of scope and are best addressed elsewhere,” PG&E wrote in its response. “A timely resolution in this proceeding is critical, and thus it should not become a catch-all for every Diablo Canyon-related issue.”
‘Out of scope’
In its response, PG&E listed several topics raised in the responses and protests that it did not feel should be up for debate in the CPUC proceedings.
Among those were what would happen to the land and on-site buildings after the plant closes: Could desalination still be feasible? What will happen to the 12,000 acres surrounding the plant and the portion known as Wild Cherry Canyon? What about spent fuel rod storage?
Other questions addressed decommission timing and methods and the economic impact of the plant closure on San Luis Obispo County.
In its response Monday, PG&E wrote that most of those topics would be addressed in its Diablo Canyon Site-Specific Decommissioning Study, which is expected to be filed in 2018.
“PG&E is not seeking in this application to resolve every issue that will arise and need to be addressed as part of the long-term decommissioning process,” read the response. “Doing so would not only massively expand an already complex set of issues to be resolved here, but would also be impossible since PG&E has not yet prepared a Site-Specific Decommissioning Plan for the facility.”
PG&E also added that because of the likely passing of Senate Bill 968 — which directs the California Public Utilities Commission to undertake an independent third-party assessment of the closure’s local economic impacts — the company does not wish to “duplicate” that process in the CPUC proceedings. (Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Monday, after PG&E filed its response.)
“While the reasonableness of PG&E’s proposed $49.5 million contribution toward the costs of mitigation that will ultimately be identified in the report is in scope, the quantification of the economic impact of Diablo Canyon’s closure and assessment of potential mitigation is, as specified in the statute a matter for state and local government,” PG&E wrote.
Many of those issues PG&E listed as outside of the scope of proceedings have been county residents’ most pressing concerns in recent months.
Earlier this month for instance, six of the county’s seven cities banded together to form a coalition to protest the plant’s closure application and ask for a voice in the proceedings to make sure their concerns were heard.
Among their top concerns are future uses of the land and facilities and the economic impact on the county.
“It appears that PG&E wants to delay consideration of these issues until after irrevocable decisions about them have already been made,” the coalition wrote in a statement Monday. “Our residents deserve these issues be part of the process now. We remain hopeful that PG&E will avoid delay tactics or prematurely remove important community topics from the discussion. PG&E should embrace their role to remain good local partners and engage in prompt and productive negotiations for the future of their employees and the communities they serve.”
Outside of the decommission and economic questions, PG&E also addressed the numerous requests to change the timeline of the plant’s closure, from pleas to keep the plant open and operating past the 2025 closure date to calls to close Diablo Canyon immediately.
“In the application, PG&E addresses its decision not to proceed with license renewal when Diablo Canyon’s operating license expire in 2024 and 2025,” read the utility’s response. “The reasonableness of that decision is within the scope of this proceeding. However, PG&E does not believe that the early shutdown of Diablo Canyon is in scope. Diablo Canyon is currently used and useful and authorized for rate recovery in PG&E’s current generation rates.”
To IRP or not to IRP
A major factor the company urged the commission to keep under consideration was the proposal for the utility to replace a quarter of Diablo’s nuclear energy output with greenhouse gas-free and energy-efficient resources.
As part of its closure agreement, the company has proposed three tranches — or steps — to accomplish that, starting with adding 2,000 gross gigawatt-hours of energy efficiency in PG&E’s service territory between 2018 and 2024.
According to the response, several commenting parties asked that that issue be deferred from the CPUC proceedings, and instead taken up in the company’s separate Integrated Resource Planning process, which will outline how PG&E plans to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as required by SB 350 last year.
Some raised concerns that the company was attempting to circumvent the new IRP process by cementing its plans in the CPUC proceedings.
The value in this is we have nearly a decade to work on this and prepare.
Blair Jones, PG&E spokesman
PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said Monday that the company wants the energy-efficiency discussion included in the CPUC proceedings to keep it “moving along in a timely manner.”
“The value in this is we have nearly a decade to work on this and prepare,” Jones said. “It’s important that we start moving forward immediately.”
According to the company’s response, because the timeline for the IRP process is still unclear — the California Energy Commission website says public utilities will be required to submit an updated IRP by January 2019, though the commission must first develop guidelines for the plans — using only that method to talk about energy efficiency and greenhouse gas-free resources would delay them from being implemented.
“In short, the IRP process is untested and will likely be quite lengthy,” read PG&E’s response.
The California Public Utilities Commission has scheduled three meetings regarding the Diablo Canyon closure. The first is a prehearing conference on Oct. 6 in San Francisco for parties to the proceedings. The other two are public participation hearings on Oct. 20 at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, 3450 Dairy Creek Road, San Luis Obispo, at 1:30 and 7 p.m.