California's stressed-out power grid was handed another blow this week, when the state's last operating electricity-generating nuclear power plant said it plans to go offline in less than a decade.
PG&E, owner of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and a major provider of power for northern California, said Tuesday that it plans to shut down the facility when its current operating license expires in 2025, to meet the state's renewable energy policy goals.
Though the plant has been in operation since 1985, it has come under criticism in recent years due to seismic risk concerns. PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said there are earthquake faults nearby but indicated the plant is designed to withstand quakes likely for the area, and that Diablo Canyon wouldn't be in operation today if that weren't the case.
The company's announcement comes at an already tumultuous time for California's energy grid, which is facing early summer stress and a risk of rotating power outages down south. Indeed, thousands of customers were without power Monday and into Tuesday, as temperatures topped 110 degrees in some areas.
On Monday, the state's power grid operator declared a Flex Alert for Southern California, warning that "demand on the power grid can be strained, as air conditioner use increases." A Flex Alert asks residents to conserve energy.
While that strain is expected to lessen when temperatures cool later this week, the region's wildfires are adding another complication. Flames from a fire in the Angeles National Forest on Tuesday tripped a series of high-voltage lines, forcing the state grid operator to re-route electricity to make up for the impacted lines.
California's heavy reliance on natural gas for more than half of its electricity generation has created vulnerabilities for the state, especially during the summer months. In particular, problems at Aliso Canyon — a key natural gas storage facility and site of the nation's worst gas leak — have become a concern for Southern Californians.
"The likelihood of a power outage during a heat wave this summer is heightened because of the gas leak that," the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said last week. "Aliso Canyon is the only gas storage facility that can immediately respond to rapid changes in gas supply for 17 gas-fired generating plants, including four generating stations operated by LADWP in the Los Angeles basin."