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Republicans try to get nuclear power accepted as “renewable” in California

Proposed bill would include large hydro, nuclear in California’s renewable portfolio standard,  Utility Dive, By Kavya Balaraman Jan. 23, 2020  
Dive Brief:

  • California Republicans on Tuesday introduced legislation to temporarily halt the requirements of the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) program and redirect funds to ensure utilities improve their infrastructure and vegetation management programs.
  • The proposed bill would also, if and when the program is reinstated, include nuclear generation and all hydroelectric facilities operating as of January 1, 2021 in the program’s definition of an “eligible renewable energy resource.”
  • The bill, along with a second piece of legislation introduced by state Assemblyman James Gallagher, R, and Sen. Jim Nielsen, R, “will help prevent future wildfires and utility power shutoff events,” according to a press release. But environmental advocates say that the move to extend RPS eligibility to hydro and nuclear facilities might not go far in California’s current political landscape.

Dive Insight:

California established its RPS program in 2002, requiring at the time that renewable resources make up 20% of electricity retail sales by 2017. However, the program’s targets have changed over the years; the state passed Senate Bill 100 in 2018, accelerating RPS requirements to 60% by 2030, as well as requiring that carbon-free resources supply all of the state’s electricity by 2045.

Large hydropower and nuclear generation don’t currently count toward the RPS standard requirements, but the state is still defining the zero-carbon requirement passed in SB 100, Alex Jackson, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive.

In the last three years, California utilities have also been wrestling with the increased threat of wildfires posed by their infrastructure. Devastating fires in 2017, 2018 and 2019 have caused billions of dollars in damage across the state, pushing Pacific Gas & Electric to declare bankruptcy in early 2019.

To reduce this risk, the utility adopted a public safety power shut-off (PSPS) program, proactively de-energizing areas that are particularly prone to fires during windy or dry weather conditions. The shut-offs have drawn widespread criticism from regulators, lawmakers and customers in Northern California……..

Environmental advocates pushed back against the proposal to include both large hydropower and nuclear generation as eligible resources under the RPS program.

The RPS is part of a deliberate state move away from fossil fuels, and utilities already get a lot of their power from hydro, so counting it in the RPS requirements would discourage investments in wind, solar, and other renewables, Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, told Utility Dive…..

On the nuclear energy front, “there’s no way you can call nuclear renewable,” she said. “It doesn’t emit carbon, but it has lots of other very intense environmental impacts.”

“Nuclear is being phased out not because of its ineligibility for RPS requirements, but because these large inflexible baseload plants are increasingly incompatible with a system that’s predominantly run on intermittent clean energy resources,” according to Jackson.

Flexibility is key going forward and the high operating costs of nuclear plants is what led PG&E to propose the retirement of the Diablo Canyon plant in the first place, he added. …….https://www.utilitydive.com/news/proposed-bill-include-large-hydro-nuclear-power-californias-rps/570919/

January 27, 2020 - Posted by | politics, USA

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