SONGS closure could hinder California environmental goals

The permanent closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) represents a blow to clean, emissions-free energy in California, yet the impact of the plant’s closure on electricity reliability might have been overstated.

This is according to the testimony of energy officials in a Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications July 12. The meeting included officials from SONGS plant operator Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System Operator (California ISO).

The shutdown of SONGS means the California power grid will have to call upon its coal-fired and natural gas-fired power generation fleet to meet energy needs in times of high demand, according to officials at the meeting.

California’s renewable energy portfolio standard calls for the state to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources of power by 2020. State senators at the meeting said they wished for most of the new power capacity in California to be renewable energy so that this goal – one of the nation’s most stringent renewable energy standards – could be met.

Nuclear materials at SONGS will continue to be stored at the site of the plant. Disassembling the plant will take decades, according to plant operators.

Employees at the plant will be reduced from 1,500 to about 400.

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