February 16, 2024 Lavish Opposition Lobbying Likely Culprit
The independent nonprofit Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) played a pioneering role in the December 18, 2023 news that Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s (DCPP’s) operations would be extended at least until 2030. CPUC votes in favor of 5-year extension for Diablo Canyon 12 18 23 Since its founding in 2013, CGNP has tenaciously fought for DCPP extended operations at the local, state, and federal level. CGNP’s president Gene Nelson, Ph.D. received a 2022 ANS presidential citation for his pro-DCPP advocacy. ANS Presidential Citations – 2022
Despite the good news in the first paragraph, this article provides information supporting the perspective that firms that would derive financial benefit from a needless DCPP closure likely persist in their work to de-fund DCPP advocates such as CGNP. PacifiCorp, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary was identified on February 12, 2024 as the fifth-largest 2023 California lobbyist employer. PacifiCorp Big Lobbying Spender in 2023 – 02 12 24 PacifiCorp spent $5,049,612.26 in 2023. Between 2019 and 2023, PacifiCorp spent $2,541,794.12 directly lobbying the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC.) The latter sum exceeded by more than a quarter million dollars the amount the much-larger Pacific Gas & Electric Company spent directly lobbying the CPUC during the same period. See: PacifiCorp Lobbying Payments Graph 2000-2023
PacifiCorp is required by the California Secretary of State to provide detailed information regarding the specific legislation it supports or opposes in its quarterly Form 635 disclosures. Rather than providing such detail, PacifiCorp mostly “cuts and pastes” its vague disclosures from earlier quarters. As an example, this October 14, 2022 article shows that PacifiCorp would be one of the first beneficiaries of replacing CAISO with a multistate regional transmission operator (RTO). PacifiCorp Push for CAISO Grid Regionalization 10 14 22 A proposed grid regionalization bill, AB 538 (Holden, 2023) was introduced in the California Assembly but died on January 31, 2024. There is no mention of AB 538 in PacifiCorp’s 2023 Form 635 disclosures.
Following the reasoning in the 2016 environmental case decided in the U.S. Supreme Court, Hughes v. Talen Energy, a multistate RTO including California would be able to over-rule California environmental laws such as SB 1348 (Perata, 2006) which bars long-term supply contacts with out-of-state generators that burn coal. According to the Clean Air Task force’s 2019 Toll from Coal tabulation, PacifiCorp wholly or partially owned 11 coal-fired power plants in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona with a total capacity of 11,555 MW. PacifiCorp Coal Plants 2019 – 06 27 21 (Finding information regarding coal-fired generation or emissions via the PacifiCorp website is now very difficult. Searching the firm’s website for the phrase “emissions inventory” yielded only three references from 2008.)
On December 8, 2023 the CPUC issued a proposed decision (PD) completely denying CGNP’s intervenor compensation request in A.16-08-006 for more than $153,000. Here is the “redline version” showing the minor changes after A1608006 CGNP’s Comments Accepted 01 04 24 in response to the PD were finally accepted on January 4, 2024. A.16-08-006 PD Denying CGNP IComp Red Line Version 01 09 24 (The CPUC’s minor changes are shown in colored type.) This amount we requested was to cover our un-reimbursed expenses in advocating for extended Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) operations in CPUC Proceeding A.16-08-006 which began in late 2016. On the other hand, the CPUC awarded about $2 million in A.16-08-006 intervenor compensation to Diablo Canyon opponents.
CGNP was the sole Party of 55 that advocated for extended DCPP operations. We successfully led a coalition effort that will save California ratepayers billions of dollars as DCPP’s lifetime is extended at least five years. DCPP has a market value in the neighborhood of $10 billion as a modern highly-performing nuclear power plant that safely and reliably provides the annual equivalent of about five Hoover Dams of in-state emission-free electricity. After 2025, DCPP’s already economical costs will likely decrease since plant owner PG&E will be essentially unable to charge for the cost of capital as the plant is mostly paid off. PG&E will be publicly issuing a DCPP cost forecast in about two months. Per the U.S. EIA, the fuel cost of nuclear power is about a quarter of the cost of either coal or natural gas. Neither solar nor wind can ever replace dispatchable DCPP since it produces power when the Sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing sufficiently hard. DCPP’s typical annual capacity factor (or percentage on-time) is above 90%. Power plants using other forms of energy have lower capacity factors.
The set of developments in the above paragraph likely caused displeasure in the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) subsidiary PacifiCorp. As noted above, PacifiCorp operates a large fleet of coal-fired power plants in and near Wyoming, the state that produces by far the largest amount of coal of any state. CGNP has criticized PacifiCorp’s coal-fired generation in our filings before regulatory and oversight bodies at the local, state, and federal level. Almost two years ago, a hard-hitting CGNP OpEd criticizing PacifiCorp was published in the influential Capitol Weekly in Sacramento. Closing Diablo Canyon spurs fears over replacement power 04 05 22
California’s SB 1368 (Perata, 2006) has an important loophole. It only applies to long-term supply contracts greater than five years. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) operates the large coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant near Delta, Utah. The plant’s owner, the Intermountain Power Agency is working to re-power this coal-fired plant with natural gas by 2025, which is an environmentally – beneficial change. Progress details are shown in their meeting minutes https://www.ipautah.com/about-ipa/board-of-directors-meeting-minutes/
In contrast to the LADWP, two BHE subsidiaries continue to sell mostly coal-fired power mostly to California entities via the blandly-named Western Energy Imbalance Market (WEIM.) WEIM was jointly created in November, 2014 by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and PacifiCorp. Here’s the spreadsheet WEIM Sales to 4Q 2023 showing total electricity sales of over $1.2 billion by a pair of BHE subsidiaries by the end of 2023. WEIM is a daily electricity spot market exempt from the SB 1386 performance standards. BHE apparently is not satisfied this is enough. They developed a FERC Docket ER22-2762 to effectively re-brand their fossil-fired generation fleet as a West Wide Reliability Asset. CGNP filed objections in this Docket which were over-ruled. The new program has the appealing acronym of WRAP. California is still not a signatory to this plan despite the fact that California typically imports about 100 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year, the most of any state. (1 TWh equals a billion kilowatt-hours.)
While CGNP is not privy to CPUC deliberations, we can’t avoid wondering if the gargantuan sums in the second paragraph spent by PacifiCorp for recent lobbying may have influenced all the intervenor compensation decisions in the fifth paragraph.
Do you disagree with the CPUC’s intervenor compensation decision? One way you can help is to donate to our nonprofit. Details are found at https://CGNP.org/about