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PG&E Steps Up Defense of Plans to Close Nuclear Plant, De-emphasize Gas

San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) filed a response with state regulators on Monday, defending its proposal to close its nuclear plant over the next decade and replace that power source with renewables and efficiency programs. Natural gas-fired power generation would not be one of the options.

In June, the giant combination utility unveiled plans to eventually close by 2025 the 2,200 MW Diablo Canyon nuclear generation plant , the state’s last nuclear generating plant, near San Luis Obispo (see Daily GPIJune 21).

In a filing last Monday to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), PG&E responded to public comments to its joint proposal that would increase the utility's future investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage beyond current state mandates in those areas.

"The diverse parties to the joint proposal believe it represents the most appropriate and responsible path forward for supporting the state's energy vision [on climate change]," said Geisha Williams, PG&E president. "We fully understand that elements of the joint proposal reflect important issues for the state and PG&E's customers."

The utility is underscoring the fact that it believes the next 10 years will provide the time needed to fully plan and carry out the proposal, which requires both federal and state regulatory approvals. Comments on the proposal were filed with the CPUC earlier this month. PG&E sponsored a workshop on the proposal before it was filed with state regulators in August.

In its filing, PG&E told the CPUC that most parties agree with the joint proposal's intent to replace Diablo Canyon's 2,200 MW with resources that have no greenhouse gas emissions, meaning no new gas-fired generation.

Since announcing the proposal, PG&E has stopped any efforts it had under way to renew the Diablo Canyon operating licenses at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and it asked the NRC to suspend consideration of the pending Diablo license renewal application. PG&E plans to withdraw the NRC application when the CPUC approves the joint proposal.

On Wednesday the CPUC set a public participation hearing for Oct. 20 for residents and organizations in the San Luis Obispo area surrounding the nuclear plant site. The commission intends to hold additional public participation hearings.

PG&E said in its filing that no long-term increase in retail customer rates is expected from the nuclear plant closing. "[We] believe it is likely that implementing the proposal will have a lower overall cost than relicensing Diablo Canyon and operating it through 2044," the utility said.

Joining PG&E in the joint proposal are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

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