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LADWP puts a hold on new power plants to consider greener options

Jeda Villa Bali. Solar-powered. Photo by Bart Speelman via Flickr Creative Commons

Plans to build new gas-fired power plants have been put on hold while officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power study the potential for replacing them with cleaner alternatives.

“We are taking a pause, and we are looking more holistically at the whole system,” Reiko Kerr, an assistant general manager, told the DWP Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning during a report on the city’s clean power plan.

Environmentalists have long questioned LADWP’s plans to build as many as ten new natural gas-fired power plants over the next 20 years to replace aging ones that use ocean water for cooling. The plan seemed at odds with green energy pronouncements from city officials.

“At the same time that the mayor and City Council are saying, ‘Hey we’d like to see a plan for 100 percent clean energy,’ the utility was moving ahead with plans to lock in fossil fuel generation for the next several decades,” said Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club. “It’s very hard to square those two things.

The city is pursuing a goal of obtaining 39 percent of its power through renewable sources by 2020. The City Council has also asked the DWP to come up with a plan to get all of its power from renewable sources, but has not set a deadline.

The most immediate concern is replacing two power generating units at the Scattergood power plant across from Dockweiler Beach at a cost of $593 million. Both plants are more than 60 years old and were slated to be torn down and replaced with gas-fired power plants that do not use ocean water for cooling. DWP recently rebuilt another unit at Scattergood costing $900 million, said DWP spokeswoman Amanda Parsons.

Gillespie said he welcomed the DWP officials’ halt in construction plans.

“This is an opportunity to step back and figure out how do we react to the public and other decision-makers’ requests for a clean energy future,” he said.

Despite the halt in construction plans for the two power generating units at Scattergood, work would continue to demolish the old units, Kerr said.

During the pause, DWP will study whether to build smaller plants or no plants at all. Also, how transmission lines and energy storage might be improved to make better use of solar installations.