California regulators on Wednesday approved a long-term plan for Southern California Edison Co.’s (SCE) future sources of electricity, which deemphasizes the use of natural gas.

The decision comes in the face of a regulatory decision to ban once-through-cooling (OTC), as well as the possibilty of a long-term shutdown at SCE’s San Onfre Nuclear Generating Station (Songs) plant, which has been idled for more than a year.

The SCE decision still relies on a certain amount of gas-fired generation, particularly in the transmission-constrained Los Angeles Basin, but it emphasized that SCE use “preferred resources” — efficiency, conservation and renewables.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Michael Peevey said the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is “nervous” about moving from gas-fired generation in Southern California when there is uncertainty about the future of the 2,200 MW Songs facility.

Commissioner Mike Florio said gas was still the “most reliable, flexible and dependable resource” for power generation, and SCE would need to rely on a certain amount, although substantially below historic levels.

There is currently about 4,900 MW of gas-fired generation in the Los Angeles Basin, and the plan approved by the CPUC calls for that amount decreasing to 1,200 MW. In Ventura County, its 2,000 MW of gas-fired power will drop to 290 MW by the early 2020s when the state’s OTC ban fully kicks in to use sea water cooling at a string of coastal gas-fired generation plants.

With the state’s renewable goal hitting 33% in 2020, Florio said it was essential that the preferred resources be emphasized. Peevey went further by saying it was time for the state to “push the envelope and move to a greener energy mix.”

All five of the CPUC commissioners recognized that the decision was only a first step. As soon as CAISO completes a study of what to do given the Songs uncertainty, the CPUC would begin another phase of an ongoing proceeding regarding long-term power resource needs.

Commissioner Carla Peterman noted that one option is using more biomethane gas, about which the CPUC separately launched a statewide investigation.

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