Assuring grid reliability in California — a view from Commissioner Randolph



By Liane M. Randolph

The following is a viewpoint by Commissioner Liane M. Randolph of the California Public Utilities Commission.

On Feb. 28, 2018, my fellow Commissioners and I received a letter from NRG California South, which operates 11 natural-gas fired power plants in the state. The letter stated that NRG intended to “shut down and retire” two of its facilities: the Ormond Beach Generating Station by October and the Ellwood Generating Station by next January. Together, these plants have the capacity to provide 1,570 megawatts to residents and businesses in Southern California. 

In daily life, the critical role of these gas plants often goes unnoticed. NRG’s brief letter would likely cause most Californians to shrug, or perhaps feel pleased that these older power plants, which emit high levels of particulate pollution when they run, will soon be shuttered. But as I will explain here, my colleagues and I at the California Public Utilities Commission know that these plants — and others — are in specific places where their power is vital to the reliability of the state’s electric grid.

So what is the best response to the challenges exemplified by NRG’s letter?  Last week, my fellow Commissioners and I approved a significant market redesign that was supported by a surprising range of stakeholders. Our decision (18-06-030) offers a window into the complex structure California has developed to plan and assure grid reliability.

For the rest of the editorial: Utility Dive

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