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Los Angeles puts hold on gas-fired plant construction to study alternatives

The city of Los Angeles has put on hold all planned local gas-fired repowering projects until a systemwide independent analysis is conducted on alternatives for meeting the city's electric resource requirements.

The policy was announced during the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or LADWP, Board of Commissioners meeting on June 6. LADWP spokeswoman Kim Hughes said the department will organize an independent panel of participants, including two commissioners, to conduct the study of local generation and transmission systems, including consideration of all generation units that were scheduled for repowering.

"No funds will be expended for repowering projects until the systemwide study is completed and final recommendations are approved," the presentation stated.

The policy is in response to California's increased emphasis on carbon emission reductions and renewable energy, including proposed legislation by state Senate Leader Kevin de León to increase the renewable portfolio standard to 100%, Hughes said.

The city is already 13 years ahead of its greenhouse gas reduction goals and reached an estimated 29% renewable energy standard target in 2016, with the aim of 55% by 2030. At the same time, the few gas-fired units the city has already built in its program to replace aging plants have proven to be more effective than expected in integrating variable renewable energy resources, she said.

The department moved to comply with a state mandate to phase out plants that used once-through-cooling with seawater. For years, the LADWP has been working on projects to replace most of its power generation resources. The department obtained a reprieve from the legislature to extend its repowering projects out to 2029, which now gives the nation's largest municipal utility time to work on finding alternatives, such as pumped storage, battery storage and use of electric vehicles, not only for greenhouse gas reduction in the Los Angeles Basin but also possibly for distributed electricity storage, Hughes said.

The LADWP originally proposed to replace 13 units at the Haynes, Scattergood and Harbor CC generating stations, but has only completed three units thus far, according to a presentation the department's staff made to the board, two at Haynes and one at Scattergood.

The department plans to collaborate with other utilities, partner with research institutions such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and engage stakeholders in the analysis, according to the presentation. The study is expected to be completed by early 2018 and will forecast reliability needs through 2030 while providing a comparative analysis of alternatives.

Those alternatives may include repowering the once-through cooling units with smaller units, making transmission line improvements, expanding the city's renewable generation portfolio and deploying distributed energy resources. Energy efficiency, demand response, photovoltaic solar, including community solar projects, and other resources will be examined in addition to various means of storing electricity for peak use. All alternatives will be evaluated in terms of effectiveness for reducing greenhouse gases, reliability and cost, according to the department's staff.

All repowering projects require LADWP board and Los Angeles City Council approval, and the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, includes $61.5 million to complete demolition of the Scattergood and Haynes generating stations and prepare the sites for future energy projects.