Reduced profits for fossil fuel-backups means there’s less incentive to keep them available.
There’s a dark side to California’s push for more renewable power, according to those responsible for keeping the state’s lights on.
Some fossil fuel plants are faltering amid rapid expansion of solar, wind and other green energy sources. Natural-gas-fueled Sutter Energy Center in Yuba City, Calif., could close by year’s end. Owner Calpine Corp. cautions that the plant likely is the first of many facing trouble in the years ahead.
The Golden State’s grid manager is sounding the alarm. Steps must be taken to preserve Sutter and other natural gas plants, California’s Independent System Operator (ISO) said, because green power can vanish when clouds roll in or the wind stops blowing.
Backup generation will be crucial, the ISO said, as the state pushes toward its mandate that utilities make one-third of their power from green sources by 2020. It’s the nation’s most aggressive renewable power rule.
“People have to understand this is a risk to reliability, but it’s also a risk to the success of renewable generation,” said Stephanie McCorkle, ISO spokeswoman. “All eyes are on California”…
“That is taking away margin from these gas-fired power plants,” said SCE’s Cushnie. The renewable portfolio standard, which municipal utilities also must meet, he said, “is eroding these conventional resources’ opportunity to recover their costs in the conventional marketplace.”
Natural gas plants are “running less often; they are earning less money on average,” Cushnie said. “We do believe that there is an economic viability concern for some of these facilities”…