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California City Stalls Natural Gas Plant to Explore Cleaner Alternatives

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The city of Glendale, California is putting a long-planned, US$500-million natural gas plant on hold and giving renewable energy producers three months to show they can offer an equal or better deal.

“The city-controlled utility had proposed a rebuild of the existing Grayson plant,” Greentech Media reports, and city council could have upheld that plan at an April 10 meeting. Instead, “in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, members voted four-to-one to examine other options.”

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Greentech says the decision to suspend the 262-megawatt project “appears to be the first time a municipal utility declined to approve a gas plant in favor of distributed energy resources. By doing so, Glendale joins a trend of grid planners halting new gas plants in favour of cleaner, distributed tools to fulfill the same grid needs.”

The decision has lent encouragement to the Chumash Nation’s fight [2] against a developer’s plan to build a gas and energy storage peaker plant on a sacred site along the Santa Clara River, in Ventura County, and to Oxnard, CA activists opposing a facility that would loom over their coastline.

Glendale may pose a greater challenge to gas plant opponents, because it’s a dense urban environment with transmission constraints and a plant that’s aging out of operations, exposing a real reliability need,” Greentech states. But “this is a place for the clean energy sector to step up and show that they can do this,” said Earthjustice attorney Angela Johnson Meszaros, who testified in Glendale on behalf of the U.S. Sierra Club. “If they don’t, the city will approve this power plant, and the takeaway will be that the clean energy solutions aren’t there.”

Ahead of the April 10 meeting, Glendale Water and Power specifically warned against delaying the project to consider other options. “Failure to take action to modernize the aging Grayson Power Plant creates risk for the City,” the utility wrote.

“The power equipment the utility wants to use would go up in price if the deal doesn’t close by the end of May, driving up costs by $2 million for a six-month delay,” Greentech notes, citing the utility document. “New permitting and design work would cost additional time and effort. The city has already spent nearly $12 million preparing this plan; changing it now would mean those costs can’t be recovered.”

In the end, though, “the argument for spending $500 million because the city has already spent $12 million did not sway the city council members.”