Under blackout threat, California may keep gas power plants state rushed to close

The state, which has made a big push toward green energy, has faced an energy shortage

California may allow four gas plants to continue operating after the state was poised to close them, citing future blackout threats, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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The four plants located along the California coast, which use ocean water for cooling purposes, were scheduled to close sometime in the next few years and be replaced by green energy sources as the state approaches its 2030 deadline to use 60 percent green energy by 2030.

Blackout concerns, however, may allow the companies to receive extensions of up to three years to continue their operations after California saw rolling blackouts on Aug. 14 and 15 following a heat wave that caused failures within its electrical system, the Times reported.

Calif. Gov. Newsom declared an emergency Tuesday over wildfires burning throughout California. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool)

"We cannot sacrifice reliability as we move forward in this transition," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week, according to the Times, as he urged residents to use less power amid more blackout threats. "We’re going to be much more aggressive in focusing our efforts and our intention in making sure that is the case."

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He added that the state "failed to predict and plan [for] these shortages, and that’s simply unacceptable."

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
AESTHE AES CORPORATION17.76-0.48-2.63%

State officials and environmentalists say the gas facilities are wasteful and damaging to the environment. They also argue that utilities and regulators have taken far too long to find clean energy replacements for the plants.

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The State Water Resources Control Board initially gave regulators about 10 years to come up with green energy replacements in 2010, but the state's Public Utilities Commission only ordered a significant battery purchase, meant to curb reliance on gas plants for energy, last year.

The Redondo Beach Power Plant, a gas-powered electricity plant owned by AES (iStock)

Because it could take years for those batteries to start operating, the four gas plants in question are asking for a deadline extension, according to the Times.

AES Corp., the largest of the four plants, is asking for a three-year extension. AES United States President Lisa Krueger said that if its Redondo Beach plant gets an extension, it could provide the state with a kind of "insurance policy" amid potential blackouts as officials look for new energy replacements.

The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to vote on an extension for the plants on Sept. 1.

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"We've been fighting to close this plant for over 10 years," Redondo Mayor Bill Brand said of AES Corp. in a March statement. "We're going to continue our opposition to any extension. They've known the retirement date for all of these plants for the last 10 years. What happened with the planning?"

Two-thirds of California's energy supply last year came from renewable sources, while one-third came from gas, the Times reported.

This article has been updated to correct a quote attributed to Redondo Mayor Bill Brand.

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