Monday, October 9, 2017

Don't Let GWP Increase Air Pollution in Glendale

Glendale Water & Power proposes spending $500 MILLION DOLLARS to replace nearly all of the existing, aging Grayson Power Plant (which produces around 16% of Glendale's electricity) with a much larger fossil fuel powered natural gas power plant.
Digging through the draft EIR, here it is in black and white on page 4.3.34. THE NEW PLANT WILL INCREASE MAXIMUM EMISSIONS in Glendale relative to the old plant:

Despite vague GWP claims that the new plant would be "cleaner," the proposal significantly increases the generation capacity of the plant far beyond what is required for Glendale's needs, and it is designed to be run much more often than the current plant, which is now mainly used only at peak times. The result is if you are anywhere in Glendale, Burbank, Atwater Village or Eagle Rock, you and your children will breathe more pollution every day under this proposal than you do today.
This astoundingly expensive proposal is especially misguided given that much cleaner renewable alternatives to a gas powered plant are available now, and prices for renewable energy solutions are falling dramatically every year. Additionally, the state legislature passed SB350, which mandates 50% clean energy in California by 2030, and this year nearly passed SB100, which would require 100% clean energy in California by 2045. Does it make sense to make a decades long $500 million dollar investment right as the price of clean alternatives plummet and state mandates make it a strong possibility that the plant would need to be retired well before it's paid for?
The timing of this proposal is so profoundly bad it makes you wonder if GWP spent top dollar on VHS tapes just as DVD players were getting cheap. California currently has a glut of electricity, and electricity use across the state is FALLING due to more efficient appliances and the rapid adoption of residential solar. In fact, the L.A. Department of Water & Power recently put all of their similar "repowering" projects on hold until they can more thoroughly investigate cleaner choices, rather than locking in decades of expensive and dirty fossil fuel power generation.
We in Glendale must demand better from our government and require them to protect our health while preparing Glendale's electrical system for a cleaner future. A gas powered plant was forward thinking in 1941, but it's a huge step backwards in 2017.
I'm reprinting this excellent information sheet from the Glendale Environmental Coalition, which makes a well informed, fact-based argument as to why this is the wrong idea at the wrong time at the wrong price. Please read, investigate and take action.
-scott (yes, this is important enough to dust off the 'ol blog!)

Glendale wants to rebuild the Grayson gas plant at San Fernando and Flower. They call it a “repowering” but it is actually an expansion which will produce vastly more power than Glendale needs and place a huge financial and environmental burden on residents for 30 years. They are rushing headlong into the project without having fully considered clean energy options. We call on the Mayor and City Council to pause the CEQA process and conduct an honest and independent study of the alternatives to this big, expensive and dirty project.

Grayson will impose huge financial costs and economic risks on residents

  • Glendale plans to take out a bond for $500 million to finance the project (about $7,500 for a family of four). Residents will be on the hook for repaying this plus interest over 30 years.
  • Glendale has not been transparent with its financial assumptions and there are serious risks. They are expecting to generate extra power and sell it on commodities exchange.
  • First, what happens if they can’t sell the excess power at a profit? California is facing a power glut right now and prices are low. GWP is betting our financial future on prices rebounding. Do we really want our city playing in the markets with our money? Anyone remember Enron?
  • Second, California utilities must be 50% renewable by 2030 while Grayson is 0% renewable. GWP expects to make up the lost renewable portion by purchasing external power but so are many other utilities. This will lead to a spike in the cost of renewable power and a substantial risk to Grayson’s financing. We should instead build local renewable energy for price security.
  • Third, California’s cap and trade program requires all power producers to pay a cost per ton of CO2 emitted. The price is expected to go up significantly but GWP is sticking with their low ball assumptions. Are they fooling themselves or just us?
  • Grayson sits on a mapped Liquefaction Hazard Zone which makes it susceptible to ground movement in the event of an earthquake – not unlike what we recently saw in Mexico City. It is likely that the gas and water lines leading to the plant will rupture, causing explosions and fire, or at best putting the facility out of commission when we need it the most. Clean energy alternatives are not subject to these kinds of risks.

The $500 million proposed plant will generate 175% of Glendale’s need

  • With the combination of today’s Grayson and electricity imports, Glendale currently has over 400 megawatts (MW) of power capacity. This is enough to cover Glendale’s needs which average about 225 MW in summer months and can spike up to almost 350 MW a fews days per year. The proposed expansion would increase the capacity to over 500 MW. That means Glendale would be sitting on 45% more electricity than needed at our absolute peak. Who will buy it?
  • This power excess increases over time as residents install more rooftop solar and energy efficiency drives down demand. By 2035, if the Grayson expansion goes ahead, GWP will have almost 550 MW of power vs. a peak demand of 300 MW, or an excess of 75-80%.
  • Why is Glendale proposing to oversupply like this? GWP’s internal documents show how GWP plans to sell excess power at a profit to other cities. Glendale wants to speculate in the power markets to make up for its non-utility budget problems! They will say that they need the excess capacity for emergency power but Grayson is on an earthquake liquefaction zone and in a flood zone so having a single point of failure power plant is not a safe backup power source.

An expanded Grayson will damage our environment and health

  • The proposed plant will increase greenhouse gas emissions at a time when California is aggressively moving to cut climate pollutants and many neighboring cities are setting zero carbon targets. Are we willing to accept being so out of step with the rest of the State? Do we want to contribute to more extreme heat, drought and fire risk?
  • The new plant will emit more pollutants into surrounding neighborhoods because much of it will now be running 24/7 to maximize sales (the current plant operates more as a backup for when demand peaks). These pollutants – carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulates, and volatile chemicals (VOC) like Benzene, Formaldehyde, Toluene, etc – add to our smoggy skies and are known causes of asthma; cancers; heart and kidney disease. They will affect not only nearby residents, schools and businesses but a broad region including Glendale and neighboring Burbank and NELA. The air in the area already fails to meet federal guidelines. We need less pollution, not more.
  • Demolition of the existing facility and soil remediation will take at least 26 months and stir up lung-piercing particulate, asbestos, and other unknown toxins that are better left intact.

There are clean energy alternatives today and more are on the horizon

  • There is over 400 MW rooftop solar capacity in Glendale. On top of this, acreage at Scholl Canyon (assuming the dump is closed) and elsewhere could accommodate large solar installations contributing another 70 MW of capacity.
  • Glendale could move faster on energy efficiency to meet its peak power needs through building retrofits, incentive programs to households and other programs at a fraction of the $500 million it would cost to build Grayson. The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use!
  • Large-scale commercial battery energy storage facilities are becoming common and are already cheaper per megawatt-hour than gas solutions - and prices are plummeting. A massive rooftop solar project combined with battery backup would provide the capacity and emergency power we need and also take advantage of the significant federal money that is available.

  • GWP is trying to scare us with dire warnings of plant failures and blackouts, but these are empty threats. We can continue to use the existing units for several more years. If absolutely necessary, GWP could adopt a phased approach by purchasing one or two small, fast-ramping gas units as an insurance policy against summertime demand spikes. There are many low-cost, low-risk options that do not require spending $500 million and which would keep our options open to transition to a clean energy future.
  • Email Glendale City Council members and ask them to do what LADWP did - commission an independent study of clean energy alternatives. The public also has until 5pm on Nov. 3rd to submit comments to Erik Krause in the City Planner’s office:
  • Attend hearings at City Hall (613 E Broadway, 2F) on October 16th at 6pm or at the Grayson plant (800 Air Way) on October 19th at 6pm, or attend BOTH!


Ok, Scott here again. Some further reading:

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