California rules restrict power plants

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 7, 2010 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

California regulators meeting in San Francisco adopted new rules May 4th that will require power plants to reduce their impact on aquatic wildlife at a potential cost of billions of dollars to ratepayers.  The California regulations are the first in the U.S. to restrict marine water use by existing power plants.

The rules, adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), require power plants that withdraw and return marine water for cooling to stop the practice and install equipment to reduce their impact on marine life. The regulations affect 19 power plants that use ocean or river water to cool power turbines and then return the water at higher temperatures in a practice called "once-through cooling."

Most plants will have to phase out their once-through cooling systems within the next several years, although plant managers can apply for alternatives that would reduce the cost. The agency estimated the upgrades will cost about 1 cent a kilowatt-hour, on average, not including lost revenue while plants are taken offline during construction.

Dominic Gregorio, the SWRCB’s ocean unit chief, said that the plants' once-through cooling systems kill 2.6 million fish, 19 billion fish larvae and 57 seals, sea lions and sea turtles each year.

Power-plant owner Dynegy Inc. criticized the draft regulations, saying they'll force the company to shut down at least two of its plants. Dynegy will likely have to shut its aging South Bay power plant near San Diego by 2013 and its Morro Bay power plant by 2015, when the plants are required to be in compliance with the new rules.  Dynegy may also have to shut one unit of its Moss Landing power plant, although the company will likely install new equipment at the plant's second unit by 2016.

Some of the other older power plants affected by the rules, owned by AES Corp., PG&E Corp. and Mirant Corp., are already slated to be shut down or renovated.   AES, of Arlington, Va., plans to replace its Alamitos and Huntington Beach power plants in Southern California or retrofit the plants with alternative cooling systems.  The state's two nuclear power plants, owned by PG&E and Southern California Edison will have until 2024 and 2022, respectively, to reconfigure their cooling systems to comply with the rules.

Charles Hoppin, chairman of the California WRCB, said he and others on the board are concerned about the reliability of California's grid and that the rules were crafted with help from the state's energy regulators and grid operator to ensure that plants could be retired or renovated on a schedule that would ensure adequate power supplies.

Read more Energy articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989