Great News for Fracking! California’s Last Nuke to Close

No sooner do some environmentalists (see item 2 of this Loose Ends post) decide that nuclear power is important and should be expanded then the news comes out this morning that Pacific Gas & Electric has decided to shut down California’s last remaining nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon in 2025 when its current federal license is up. This is great news for natural gas, because despite what the climatistas (and PG&E’s PR department) say, the gap will mostly be filled by natural gas.

In a fine turn of irony, it has been a handful of climate-centric environmentalists who have been arguing strenuously for re-licensing Diablo Canyon, on the sensible ground that this one nuke plant supplies more electricity than all of California’s solar panels combined, as shown in this chart I posted here in March:


In the absence of Diablo Canyon, California’s “clean energy” profile would look like this:

Diablo Canyon Again copy

But if you want a good laugh, take in the triumphant press release this morning from the Union of Politicized Concerned Scientists (it is advised you set down any cup of hot beverage you may have in you hand right now first):

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Retirement is Huge Opportunity for California Renewables

Statement by Laura Wisland, Senior Energy Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

OAKLAND, Calif. (June 21, 2016)—Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) commitment to replace all of the electricity supplied by Diablo Canyon with a combination of zero-carbon resources, once the nuclear plant is taken offline, should ensure that the state will not backslide on its greenhouse gas reduction goals as a result of the company’s decision to not relicense the plant. In 2014, generation from the plant made up 21 percent of PG&E’s power mix. The plant, located near Avila Beach, in San Luis Obispo County, is the last remaining nuclear power plant still operating in California. Generation from the plant supplied about 6 percent of California’s power needs in 2014.

Below is a statement by Laura Wisland, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It’s great news that PG&E will replace the lost electricity generation from Diablo Canyon with a portfolio of zero-carbon resources, including energy efficiency, renewables, demand response and energy storage. PG&E is already on track to reach 33 percent renewables by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030. This decision to invest in additional zero-carbon resources to replace Diablo’s generation helps ensure that the retirement of Diablo is managed to not contribute to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and further solidifies PG&E’s reputation as a world-class leader in clean energy investments.”

If you’ve stopped laughing, and read between the lines, you can figure out from certain code words (“energy efficiency” “demand response,” etc) that the expectation is that California will use less electricity. But even if California puts up more windmills and solar panels to replace Diablo Canyon’s massive 24/7 output, the gap will certainly be filled by natural gas backup plants, which will be running all day even if they aren’t generating electricity until the evening when the “duck curve” kicks in.

What is the “duck curve”? It’s the shape of California’s electricity demand curve in an average day, and it looks like the curve of a duck’s back as power demand goes down in the middle of the day, when solar power is producing the most electricity, and goes up in the later afternoon and evening, as solar output declines rapidly. (Wind power is more variable still.) As the state builds more solar power, the problem becomes worse, as seen in the first display of the duck curve for 2015 and the projection for 2020. What this means is that a continued buildout of “renewable” “capacity” will not lower California greenhouse gas emissions to the same degree.

Duck Curve2 copy

In fact this is becoming a problem already; on March 27, some solar farms had to be shut off from the grid because they were providing more power than was demanded:

Duck Curve copy

So all in all, the decision to close down Diablo Canyon is great news for natural gas and frackers. (Perhaps we might say the enviros are once again ignoring the fracks of life!) And it’s a virtual lock that California will not come close to meeting its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. (For one thing, it is failing already, but that is a subject for another post.)

Oh yeah, give PG&E a Green Weenie for their suckup to “renewable” energy.

P.S. Special reminder than never gets old:

“Nuclear power is one of the chief long-term hopes for conservation … Cheap energy in unlimited quantities is one of the chief factors in allowing a large rapidly growing population to preserve wildlands, open space, and lands of high scenic value … With energy we can afford the luxury of setting aside lands from productive uses.”

And who said this? It was David Siri, the executive director of the Sierra Club, in 1966.