History Made as Renewable Energy Replaces Nuclear Plant

History is being made in California where, for the first time, an agreement has been signed to replace a nuclear plant with zero emissions energy, rather than turning to fossil fuels.

The nuclear plant is California’s Diablo Canyon and the agreement is signed by utility PG&E, labor unions and environmental groups. When the plant closes within 9 years, it will be replaced completely by energy efficiency measures, demand response and solar and wind, backed by energy storage.

It’s a big deal because Diablo Canyon produces 1.1 gigawatt of power – 9% of California’s in-state power generation, 6% of the state’s electricity and about 20% of PG&E’s electricity, enough for 1.6 million people, says NRDC, one of the environmental groups that negotiated the agreement.

This proves energy efficiency and renewable energy can replace aging nuclear plants – the key is taking the time to plan ahead, says Rhea Suh, President of NRDC.


Other signatories to the “Joint Proposal” are Friends of the Earth, Environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

“Giant baseload nuclear power plants like Diablo Canyon can’t easily be taken offline or ramped up and down as system needs change, which obstructs the integration of renewable resources with variable output into the electricity grid. This worsening problem is forcing the California grid operator to shut down low-cost renewable generation that could otherwise be used productively,” explains Ralph Cavanagh of NRDC. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future, adds Friends of the Earth.

“California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy,” says Tony Earley, CEO of PG&E. “As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required.”

Diablo Canyon is California’s last nuclear plant.

Under the Joint Proposal, PG&E will withdraw its request to extend the nuclear plant’s license fo another 20 years. And it will raise its target for renewables to 55% by 2031, exceeding the state’s 50% by 2030.

The agreement includes provisions to help displaced employees and the community of San Luis Obispo.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) initiated the process by commissioning a technical and economic report that served as the basis for negotiation. Called Plan B, it details how efficiency and renewables can replace the two Diablo Canyon reactors cost-effectively.

The agreement is especially sweet for FOE because they were founded to oppose construction of Diablo way back in 1969. They have been fighting the nuclear plant ever since because it is so close major earthquake fault lines.

State and federal regulators have to approve the agreement. It’s expected to save PG&E customers at least $1 billion in energy costs.

The US has 100 nuclear reactors, many of which are nearing the end of their lives. In May, the first new reactor in 20 years came online in Tennessee and four are under construction.

A similar negotiation was attempted when California’s San Onofre nuclear plant closed in 2013, but in the end about half the energy was replaced with natural gas.

Read the Joint Proposal: http://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/safety/dcpp/MJBA_Report.pdf

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