Diablo Canyon closure would raise electricity rates

In a letter from Michael Shellenberger, MD – the leader of the pro-nuclear group Environmental Progress – he tells this blog  PG&E and NRDC made misleading statements about rates.

Hours after the deal to close Diablo Canyon nuclear plant was announced on June 21, Shellenberger writes, “Environmental Progress was the first to point out that The proposal would increase electricity rates, in a statement, as well as on a conference call and in conversations with reporters.”

“We were ignored until now. On October 27 the the San Jose Mercury News quotes me on news that PG&E will in fact raise rates. It’s outrageous and it is totally deceptive what PG&E said before compared with what is actually going to happen. There’s no point in sugar-coating what’s happened: PG&E and NRDC deliberately lied to the public and the media, said Michael Shellenberger, president of the Berkeley-based advocacy group Environmental Progress.

According to the San Diego Union in an October 27 report, the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the environmental groups that signed on to the joint proposal, issued a blog post  saying it still strongly supports closing Diablo Canyon.

“NRDC estimates that Californians will save at least $1 billion compared to the high cost of refurbishing an aging nuclear plant,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of NRDC ‘s energy program.

Shellenberger Barks Back
False Claims Exposed Says Environmental Progress in a Letter

According to Environmental Progress, when PG&E announced the deal it negotiated behind closed doors with anti-nuclear groups to terminate operations at Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant, it claimed rates would not rise.

“PG&E does not believe customer rates will increase as a result of the Joint Proposal,” the company said in a statement on June 21, 2016.

NRDC, one of the parties to the proposal, went further, claiming “PG&E customers will save at least a billion dollars by replacing Diablo Canyon.”

Now, PG&E said in a billing insert sent to customers last week that the closure would cost $1.8 billion, and that rates would rise immediately after if gets approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

This is not just about not raising rates. The two organization misled the public in other ways says Shellenberger.

Natural Gas, not Renewables, will Replace Nuclear Energy

PG&E claims Diablo Canyon will be replaced almost entirely by natural gas, not renewables. Where this is wrong,. Shellenberger says, is that natural gas is indeed needed because solar and wind that produce power 20-30% of the time cannot replace a plant that produces power 24 hours a day.

Second, Diablo Canyon will not require expensive cooling towers, which are at the heart of PG&E’s justification for raising rates.

“Both NRDC and PG&E continue to promote the idea that cooling towers will be required in order to grossly exaggerate the future cost of Diablo Canyon to justify the rate hike,” Shellenberger says.

PG&E says the costs for ratepayers to relicense and continue operating the plant through 2044 would exceed the expenses of closing the plant’s Unit 1 reactor in 2024 and the Unit 2 reactor in 2025.

“State policies that focus on renewables and energy efficiency, coupled with projected lower customer electricity demand in the future, will result in a significant reduction in the need for the electricity produced by Diablo Canyon past 2025,” PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said in a statement to the news media.

It seems that claim is open to question.

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