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LA City Muni Outlines Plan to Drop Coal, Add Gas

In the first of a series of public meetings Tuesday night, the nation's largest municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), unveiled an updated integrated resource plan (IRP) calling for eliminating its use of coal-fired generation by 2026 and nearly doubling its current use of natural gas-fired power supplies.

In 2026, LADWP is projecting that 40% of its generation mix will be gas-fired with another 33% coming from renewables. Currently gas provides about 22% and renewables 20% of the mix with coal providing 39%.

While most political leaders and citizens in the city support the dropping of coal-fired generation, a half-dozen citizens at the sparsely attended public meeting Tuesday were concerned about replacing so much of the coal with natural gas, which they argued also contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly related to methane emissions that are now getting national attention (see Daily GPISept. 4).

The objectors called for more renewables and energy efficiency programs replacing the coal and less natural gas. LADWP officials, while voicing strong support for the state's aggressive climate change measures, including cap-and-trade programs (see Daily GPIOct. 20), pointed out that more baseload gas-fired generation is needed to back-up the greater reliance on intermittent wind and solar power sources.

Part of the latest IRP, which seeks to strengthen LADWP's reliability while dropping coal, is aimed at meeting new state and  federal rules phasing out the use of seawater to cool electric generation plants, of which the city utility has three major ones along the Southern California coast. LADWP already has cut its water intake at the plants by 42% and is repowering all them over the next 15 years.

The new gas-fired units will be outfitted with quick-start technology that makes them more flexible for an increased mix of renewable sources of power in the utility's portfolio, LADWP's James Barner, an environmental engineer, told the public meeting.

Looking out to 2026, the LADWP does not have many specifics on how the shift from coal-fried generation to heavy reliance on gas-fired power will be executed. While the muni now owns some gas reserves (see Daily GPIJune 24, 2005) and has long-term arrangements for gas supplies, Barner told NGI there are no specific plans in place for increasing the utility's supplies -- either through buying more reserves or entering into long-term supply contracts.

Last January, LADWP did purchase the 527 MW gas-fired combined-cycle Apex power plant in southern Nevada from LS Power. This plant was originally developed by Mirant Corp and sold as part of a six-project package to LS Power in May 2007 (see NGIJan. 22, 2007). Kern River Pipeline historically has supplied the gas for Apex.

LADWP owns electric transmission lines running from Utah through Nevada and into its service territory in Southern California as part of its majority stake the coal-fired Intermountain Generating Station in Utah. That interest will be phased out, but the transmission line will still be used to move renewable-based and gas-fired power supplies from other sources in the Southwest.

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