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Plan issued to replace nuclear power via UT San Diego

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The early retirement of San Onofre in north San Diego County has touched off a tug-of-war over how to replace its air pollution-free nuclear power without derailing California’s environmental goals or overinflating utility rates. The utilities commission, which has authority over most utility spending to ensure reliable electricity, is looking ahead to make sure additional power resources are bid, contracted and built starting in 2018 when needs may become critical in San Diego, Orange County and portions of the Los Angeles Basin overseen by Edison.

Under the proposed ruling, SDG&E would be required to offset at least 200 megawatts of electricity demand with clean-energy alternatives such as energy efficiency upgrades, reliable conservation measures, renewable energy or energy storage devices.

Another 500 megawatts of power capacity would be open to both fossil fuels and green alternatives under an “all-source” bidding scheme. California energy policy gives priority when feasible to energy efficiency, conservation and renewable technologies ahead of natural gas-fired power plants (coal and oil generation have been largely phased out).

Sierra Club Senior Attorney Matt Vespa applauded the proposal for allowing utilities room to procure as much clean energy as they find feasible.

“I was glad to see that there was no exclusive fossil fuel requirement here,” he said. “They’re seriously looking at competition among all resources.”

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San Onofre’s 2,200-megawatt reactors once provided for 20 percent of San Diego’s energy needs, while also providing the voltage support necessary to import electricity from far away during peak demand periods. The plant went offline in January 2012 in response to a radiation leak — later traced to the rapid degradation of massive steam generators replaced in 2010 and 2011. Edison retired the plant for good in June of last year.

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