Friday, January 22, 2010

New Report Demonstrates that Renewables are a Cost-Effective Replacement For California’s Aging Power Plants

Local Power Research Director Robert Freehling has completed a new report with San Francisco-based Pacific Environment that provides a detailed cost-benefit analysis of options for phasing out California’s oldest and most inefficient natural gas fired power plants. The report, titled “Green Opportunity: How California Can Reduce Power Plant Emissions, Protect the Marine Environment, and Save Money,” finds that when the costs to public health and the environment are accounted for, replacing the aging power plants with renewable energy and efficiency would save up to 50 percent over replacing the plants with new natural gas power plants - the darling technology of utilities Pacific Gas and Electric that sell both gas and power, and tend therefore to favor gas as a power plant fuel.
The report is released as the California State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) is considering options for limiting the environmental damage caused by the state’s 17 natural gas power plants that use Once-Through Cooling Technology (OTC). OTC is a single pass cooling method that withdraws over 15 billion gallons of coastal and estuarine water per day statewide. This process kills billions of fish, larvae and marine mammals every year. Sound like "clean energy" to you? Pacific Environment’s report shows that replacing these aging power plants with renewable energy and efficiency will be more cost-effective and provide greater environmental, climate and public health benefits than replacing them with new natural gas power plants.
The report finds that replacing the power plants with clean energy would cost from 22 to 29 cents per kilowatt-hour, whereas repowering the power plant generators with non-OTC fossil fuel plants would cost 31 to 39 cents per kilowatt-hour, when externalities such as public health and environmental impacts are properly accounted. If California’s efficiency measures are also implemented, the average cost of clean energy is further reduced to about 17 to 21 cents per kilowatt-hour. In addition, California’s efficiency program is expected to yield a net savings, which will bring down the cost of clean energy replacement even further.
“This report puts to rest the myth that it is more expensive to invest in renewable energy than it is to upgrade fossil fuel power plants,” said Rory Cox, California Program Director at Pacific Environment and chief editor of the report. “Replacing these plants with renewable projects and efficiency measures will restore California’s marine ecosystems, while helping avoid the public health impacts of fossil plants, and help meet California’s clean energy goals.”
To Download the Pacific Environment Report, Click Here.

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