06-27-24

www.montereycountynow.com June 27-July 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 Back in 2016, leaders of Pacific Gas & Electric pronounced they were well on their way to a renewable future. The company envisioned growing its renewable energy portfolio quickly enough that it would be the end of nuclear. California’s last nuclear power plant wouldn’t be needed a few years down the road. “California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy,” PG&E’s then-CEO Tony Earley said in a statement in 2016. “As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required.” PG&E has operated the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near Avila Beach since 1985. In 2016, the company withdrew a relicensing application from consideration by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, meaning the plant would shut down in 2025, when its existing license expired. Fast forward to mid-2024, and it’s still responsible for producing roughly 9 percent of California’s power. By 2022, PG&E’s initial projections started to falter. In a letter explaining why he was signing Senate Bill 846 into law, extending the life of the plant by five years to 2030, Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote that it was required to keep the grid reliable. “Climate change is causing unprecedented stress on California’s energy system,” he added. That’s all to say, California’s last remaining nuclear power plant is still in business. State Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, has maintained we should use the extra five years to avoid this kind of piecemeal fix yet again. “We must use the time provided by that extension now to create a Marshall Plan to move us toward the state’s ambitious goal of zero-carbon electricity by 2045,” he said in 2022. “Making sure offshore wind is up and running in this area is a piece of that.” (I agree—although like battery storage technology, offshore wind also has its opponents. If we want industrial-scale power, it will come with industrial-scale impacts, but we can do better than nuclear when it comes to risk and cost. And while nuclear is zero-carbon, it’s worth noting, it is not renewable.) We are now a year-and-ahalf into the legislative grace period for Diablo Canyon, and new questions are emerging as PG&E seeks to recover costs from ratepayers associated with extending the life of the plant. Naturally, that has activists asking questions, including the group Mothers For Peace that has been a watchdog ever since the plant was first approved. They also include Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, a group that filed a protest with the California Public Utilities Commission objecting to PG&E’s cost recovery application, still pending before the CPUC. Attorney and former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman is representing the Alliance, and he has been poring over records to see what it costs to keep the plant running through 2030. He spoke during a virtual event convened by the Environmental Working Group on Diablo Canyon earlier this month, and Geesman calculated the total is $11.8 billion— more than double the company’s 2022 estimate. (It requires a little bit of math, given that PG&E’s testimony includes statements like, “PG&E redacts market-sensitive information regarding nuclear fuel costs. Release of this market-sensitive information could put PG&E at a competitive disadvantage with regard to other market participants and could detrimentally impact all customers.”) “It would make a lot more sense to invest incremental dollars in trying to explore new technologies than propping up a plant that is a 1960s design and has already lasted for its expected design life,” Geesman said. In an email, a PG&E spokesperson says Geesman is failing to account for “the value of electric reliability as we are experiencing peak summer energy demand.” A reliable grid is critical, and PG&E is pessimistic about the alternatives: “Recognizing that there are no alternative clean energy sources available to meet the state’s climate objectives, Diablo Canyon is the only cost-effective resource available to meet the state’s energy demands.” The Marshall Plan of renewable energy certainly sounds like a better idea. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@montereycountynow.com. Power Flex PG&E’s grace period at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is costing billions. By Sara Rubin Road Race…It doesn’t help Squid’s old jalopy that many Monterey County roads have seen better days. Squid keeps a roll of duct tape in the trunk for a quick fix after a bad pothole or two. Some roads are worse than others, as noted by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors during a budget hearing on June 20. While deciding to put a 1-percent sales tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot—in part to pay for road repairs—Supervisor Luis Alejo announced that Monterey-Salinas Transit General Manager Carl Sedoryk emailed the board to say his agency was canceling a route through Bradley because buses were getting too damaged. Supervisor Chris Lopez pointed out there is a funded plan in place to fix Bradley Road, but incoming roads were also bad, he said, then added: “The bane of my existence are the calls on roads.” For a brief moment a bit of a “my road is worse than your road” competition broke out. Chair Glenn Church quipped, “I feel your bane.” Supervisor Mary Adams chimed in: “Oh my God, Carmel Valley Road is a public embarrassment!” With the county facing an estimated $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance of roads and bridges, is it the roads that are embarrassing, or the fact that past policy makers failed to finance regular maintenance? Tight Grip…Squid attends countless public meetings, and Squid is always impressed by the fact that those serving on various boards or commissions do so for free. So Squid was refreshed recently to see so many applicants to the many board vacancies in the City of Monterey, and on June 18, the City Council considered whether to fill those vacancies with the slate recommended by Mayor Tyller Williamson. Well, many in the public weren’t too happy about those recommendations, and they gave the council an earful about it. A little backstory: In 2019, under then-mayor Clyde Roberson, the council adopted a policy where recommendations are made solely by the mayor, which no one had a problem with then. Fast-forward to the present, when several board terms are expiring, among them some seats on the Neighborhood and Community Improvement Program Committee, which first convened in 1989. Williamson recommended that three sitting members on the committee who have served on it for all its 35 years—Tom Rowley, Richard Rucello and Rick Heurer—be replaced with some new faces. Many in attendance were none too pleased about that, but the council approved the recommendations 3-2, with Alan Haffa and Ed Smith dissenting. Squid admires their eagerness to serve, and thanks them for their service, but Squid also thinks it’s important to bring in new ideas—otherwise, it’s just the same ol’, same ol’. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. We can do better than nuclear when it comes to risk. Send Squid a tip: squid@montereycountynow.com

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