by Jenifer Didlo
California is boldly going where no state has gone before. We’re increasing our use of renewable energy to 33 percent by 2020, targeting an 80 percent reduction in green-house-gas emissions by 2050 and drastically reducing our use of ocean water for power generation by 2021 — all while maintaining stable, reliable electricity supplies to ensure that when we flip the switch, the lights go on.
With great progress comes great change. We will see a virtual explosion of roof top solar panels and large-scale solar projects in the desert. We will see incredible investment in transmission lines, energy storage and new, operationally flexible natural gas power plants that will provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. We will see more electric vehicles for both public and private transportation. We may even see the elimination of nuclear power generation in our state.
The South Bay has its own unique role to play in California’s changing energy landscape. Most notably, significant progress can be achieved on the Redondo Beach waterfront through the retirement of the existing AES power plant replacing it with an extraordinarily flexible, smaller, cleaner, modern power plant.
While our historic, existing plant, built in the 1940s, literally and figuratively powered the growth of the South Bay, it is time to invest in new technology. Our need for electricity is certainly not waning and our methods for producing it have leaped light-years ahead. So while an old landmark will be lost, the next generation of technology will arise in its place, simultaneously opening up 38-acres of waterfront property for other uses.
The option to re-use the existing AES Redondo Beach site to serve future energy needs more efficiently is the environmentally responsible approach because it has fewer impacts than creating a new industrial site elsewhere. Reuse of the current location also will enable Southern California Edison (SCE) to keep our rates as low as possible.
The site has been the home of power generation for more than 100 years. The proposed plant will use existing transmission, gas and water supply lines and is situated close to those it serves, making it a low cost option for SCE. Eliminating options like this will only drive our rates up.
The new plant will reinvent the Redondo Beach skyline and waterfront, leaving 75 percent of the property for reuse and dramatically improving views by reducing the number and height of stacks by nearly one-half.
Today the plant occupies 50 acres along the waterfront. Our plan will need just 12 acres in the northwest corner of the property. It will save artist Wyland’s iconic Whaling Wall mural by incorporating it into the new plant design.
On the remaining 38 acres, the community will have the opportunity to provide input on future uses through a very public and collaborative process targeted at meeting the needs of Redondo Beach residents.
We all use natural gas in our homes because it is efficient and clean burning. The same principles make natural gas an ideal fuel for power plants. In fact, natural gas power plants are so clean that the over 40 plants in the Los Angeles Basin create less than one percent of the emissions released every day.
Transportation-related sources such as our cars, trucks, planes and ships make up 90 percent of emissions, while nine percent comes from other sources. You can understand why, if we hope to achieve our future clean air goals, there is such an emphasis on replacing gasoline-powered cars and trucks with electric and natural gas vehicles. This has the added benefit of reducing our reliance on foreign oil supplies.
When the AES plant is operating, which is approximately 40 percent of the time, all of its power flows directly to the point of service that supplies electricity to the Redondo Beach community. Once the needs of the local community are met, excess power goes to others in the South Bay. Based on the amount of power that is consumed in the South Bay — as compared to the size of our new project — we can say all of the power produced by the new plant will be consumed in the South Bay, thus ensuring reliable service that does not depend on long transmission lines, subject to overloading, or other failures.
Our application for a smaller, cleaner and more efficient natural gas power plant is subject to an exhaustive review by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. It will only go forward if it meets or exceeds the regulatory standards set by these agencies and all Federal standards.
The new plant will be more efficient and able to respond faster to changes in electricity demand, providing a consistent, dependable supply of electricity to enable the use of more renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Plants like ours are absolutely necessary to support the increased use of renewables. They go hand in hand.
Our plans provide a clear and financially viable path to remove the existing power plant and forever improve the Redondo Beach waterfront, making 38 acres available for uses such as recreation, retail, and other mixed-uses, while still providing clean, reliable and much-needed energy for the community and region.
To learn more about our plans, please visit RenewAESRedondo.com or go to the California Energy Commission proceedings at Energy.ca.gov.
Jennifer Didlo is the AES Project Director