US utilities weigh options for replacing lost San Onofre nuclear capacity

Los Angeles (Platts)--16Jul2013/1102 am EDT/1502 GMT


US utilities Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric on Monday discussed options for replacing the 2,200 MW of capacity lost when the two-unit San Onofre nuclear plant was shut in January 2012.

Mark Nelson, director of integrated planning at SoCal Ed, said the utility needs 2,800 MW of new resources and will pursue transmission additions and upgrades plus conventional generation. The CPUC has already authorized the utility to procure between 1,600 and 1,880 MW of new resources.

Nelson made the comments at a workshop in Los Angeles hosted by the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission.

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Will Speer, director for regional transmission at SDG&E, said the utility is planning transmission enhancements and adding dynamic reactive capability to substations. It has received approval for 300 MW of new local capacity for 2018.

Speer said the San Onofre shutdown and the separate required replacement or retirement of 7,400 MW of aging coastal power plants are driving joint talks between SDG&E and SoCal Ed on long-term planning.

In June, SoCal Ed said it would retire San Onofre, which was shut a year and a half earlier after the company found excessive tube wear in replacement steam generators. The coastal plants in Southern California must be replaced, repowered or retired by 2025 due to a May 2010 ruling adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Randy Howard, director of power system planning and development at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said the department is replacing nine generating units with quick-starting units at its three coastal OTC power plants. Two new units at the first of the three became operational in June. The final unit will be replaced by 2029.

LADWP has already announced plans to remove coal from its energy mix by 2025. It will replace the power generated by the Navajo generating station by 2016 and Intermountain Power plant by 2025 with 10% energy efficiency by 2020 and reach its 33% renewable energy goal, both by 2020. The department hopes to reduce demand by 700 MW to 1,000 MW by 2021, Howard said.

Coal currently makes up about 35% of LADWP's delivered power.

Howard said LADWP and the Bonneville Power Administration are jointly embarking on a project to upgrade the Pacific DC Intertie to deliver renewable power to LADWP and Cal-ISO and to improve reliability.

SoCal Ed is looking at both Los Angeles basin transmission and regional transmission upgrades, Nelson said. It is planning to loop the Tehachapi transmission line now being built into the Mesa Substation east of Los Angeles, making it a power hub.

The Tehachapi transmission line will bring wind power south from the Tehachapi Mountains where up to 4,000 MW is being developed. Nelson said the power hub will reduce the amount of generation needed in the basin.

Nelson said SoCal Ed might propose this plan at the next California Independent System Operator Board of Governors meeting in September.

He said the utility is examining the feasibility of building a 60-mile 500-kV transmission line between Romoland in Riverside County and the San Onofre plant. He acknowledged it will be "fairly tough to bring it through the urban area" and that might not be the best option.

SoCal Ed is also targeting 700 MW of preferred resources in Orange County, where San Onofre is located. Nelson labeled the effort a "living pilot" because the utility will be testing whether the resources can meet reliability needs.

Speer said SDG&E is initiating talks with the US Navy at Camp Pendleton to propose the Pendleton Energy Park where 1,000 MW of generation would be developed by bidding it out in chunks.

CPUC president Michael Peevey expressed skepticism, given the difficulty of obtaining leases on the military base when San Onofre was developed in the 1960s.

--Lyn Corum, newsdesk@platts.com  
--Edited by Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@platts.com

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