“A major U.S. utility has admitted that the energy from a nuke—one of the world’s biggest—can be effectively replaced with renewables.”
Diablo Canyon produces about 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually. By the terms of the agreement, PG&E will put out requests for offers for 2,000 GWh worth of gains in energy efficiency, RFO’s for another 2,000 GWh worth of GHG-free energy resources–conditioned on CPUC approval of PG&E’s cost recovery stipulations included in this agreement (cost recovery to be achieved mostly through rate adjustments), and starting in 2031, well after the closing of Diablo Canyon, PG&E makes a voluntary commitment to provide 55 percent of its retail sales from renewable energy resources–again contingent on approval of PG&E cost recovery. So that’s a pledge to put out requests for offers to pick up 4,000 GWh per year of efficiency gains and GHG-free energy to replace 18,000 GWh per year that Diablo Canyon currenly provides, with some vague voluntary pledge for further gains which won’t even kick in until 2031. That is not an admission that energy from Diablo Canyon can be effectively replaced with renewables. Indeed, the agreement explicitly states: " the Parties cannot, and it would be a mistake to try to, specify all the necessary replacement procurement now; what the Parties have proposed in the Joint Proposal are significant and appropriate steps in the journey."
“The agreement comes just prior to a crucial June 28 hearing in front of the California State Lands Commission. PG&E wants the State Land Commission to renew leases issued in 1969 and 1970 that allow Diablo’s cooling systems to pollute coastal territory.”
Exactly. If they rule PG&E must reduce the outflow temperature of the cooling water, PG&E would have to decide between closing the plant now, before it has had time to accumulate the funds needed for decommissioning, or to invest in expensive cooling towers and to continue to pursue licensing extensions to increase the investment recovery period.
“many fear this agreement might incline them to now let those requirements go unenforced until the alleged new shut-down date, rather than forcing the reactors to close in 2018 and 2019, when the leases expire. Grassroots activists are circulating petitions and exerting as much pressure as they can to make sure the commissioners hold the line.”
If the commissioners hold the line, this agreement goes into the trash bin. The agreement includes the understanding that the Joint Proposal is contingent on approval of the lease extension, approval of the procurement plan for replacing the energy from DCPP along with approval of “a non-bypassable cost allocation mechanism that ensures all users of PG&E’s grid pay a fair share of the costs”, CPUC assurance that PG&E will be allowed to recoup its investment in DCPP by the proposed closing dates, and approval of cost recovery for the employee and community benefits.
So if the parties who signed onto this agreement want PG&E to give up pursuing licence extensions, if they want the employee benefits, if they want the community transition funds, and if they want the commitments for more efficiency, GHG-energy sources and storage investments, then what they need to do to preserve this agreement they worked so hard on is to unite and apply pressure on the commissioners to give PG&E a waiver and extend the lease until DCPP closes.
“no independent observer believes PG&E has signed this agreement out of love for the planet, its workers, the public well-being or the spirit of the law. It could mark a significant leap toward shutting Diablo Canyon, but it does not seal its fate. Indeed, unless accompanied with fierce activism, some fear it could offer PG&E political cover to prolong its operations.”
It is expressly contingent on operations being allowed to continue until the current licenses expire. So if the parties who signed onto this agreement want its benefits, it’s up to them to generate the political cover needed to make that happen.