Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has announced a joint proposal with labor and environmental organizations to phase out California’s last remaining nuclear power plant and replace its energy production with a portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and storage by 2025.
Underpinning the agreement is the recognition that new state energy policies will significantly reduce the need for the electricity output from the two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP). Such policies include S.B.350, which increased California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030 and doubled energy efficiency goals. The joint proposal would include a PG&E commitment to go beyond the state RPS and set a 55% by 2030 renewable energy target.
The parties to the joint proposal include PG&E, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environment California and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
Under the terms of the proposal, PG&E would retire the DCPP at the expiration of its current Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses, which are due to lapse on Nov. 2, 2024, for the Unit 1 reactor and Aug. 26, 2025, for Unit 2. The utility has agreed to not seek renewal of the licenses, and this eight- to nine-year transition period is expected to provide the time necessary to plan and replace Diablo Canyon’s energy with new greenhouse gas (GHG)-free resources.
Furthermore, the parties to the agreement are jointly committed to supporting a successful transition for DCPP employees and the community. PG&E says its DCPP Retention Program will provide, among other things, incentives to retain employees during the remaining operating years of the plant; a retraining and development program to facilitate redeployment of a portion of plant personnel to the decommissioning project or other positions within the company; and severance payments upon the completion of employment. PG&E says it has reached agreement on these benefits with IBEW Local 1245 and will engage in bargaining with its other labor unions to ensure appropriate benefits for represented employees.
In addition, the joint proposal includes payments by PG&E to San Luis Obispo County totaling nearly $50 million. The proposed payments are designed to offset declining property taxes through 2025 in support of a transition plan for the county.
“California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy. As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required,” explains PG&E CEO and President Tony Earley. “Importantly, this proposal recognizes the value of GHG-free nuclear power as an important bridge strategy to help ensure that power remains affordable and reliable and that we do not increase the use of fossil fuels while supporting California’s vision for the future.”
He adds, “Supporting this is a coalition of labor and environmental partners with some diverse points of view. We came to this agreement with some different perspectives – and we continue to have some different perspectives – but the important thing is that we ultimately got to a shared point of view about the most appropriate and responsible path forward with respect to Diablo Canyon and how best to support the state’s energy vision.”
In a separate press release, NRDC says it estimates PG&E customers will save at least $1 billion from the agreement’s implementation.
“Energy efficiency and clean renewable energy from the wind and sun can replace aging nuclear plants – and this proves it. The key is taking the time to plan,” comments NRDC President Rhea Suh. “Nuclear power versus fossil fuels is a false choice based on yesterday’s options.”
Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, calls the agreement “historic.”
“It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage,” says Pica in another press release. “It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”
The joint proposal is contingent on a number of state regulatory approvals.