The manager of California's electricity grid agreed Friday to conduct a study of clean energy alternatives to replacing an existing natural gas facility in Ventura County with a new, more efficient fossil fuel plant.
In a five-page filing with state regulators, the California Independent System Operator asked for a deadline of Aug. 16 to complete the project. The California Energy Commission had initially given the system operator until July 19, if it chose to do the review of alternatives to the proposed Puente natural gas project.
Commissioners have scheduled a hearing for June 28.
The system operator's decision to study the alternatives follows hundreds of filings over the last week from residents near the power plant site, many urging the energy commission to reject any plan to build a new natural gas plant in the already heavily industrialized community.
A similar review is underway by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is deciding whether to spend $2.2 billion to renovate existing power plants in the L.A. basin or use clean energy to meet demand. That study is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.
The studies mean that a handful of proposed fossil fuel plants could get scrapped in favor of renewable energy.
A Los Angeles Times investigation earlier this year found that power plants are closing prematurely in the state because of a glut of electricity. Yet regulators continue to approve more natural gas plants.
Members of the electricity grid operator's board of governors decided in May to propose a study of clean alternatives to the proposed Puente natural gas plant.
California has mandated that 50% of its electricity must come from clean energy sources such as solar and wind power by 2030. Senate Leader Kevin de Leon has proposed legislation to move to 100% clean energy by 2045.
Critics of the proposed natural gas projects argue that adding more fossil fuel facilities doesn't make sense when solar, wind and energy storage have become viable alternatives to plants that emit greenhouse gases.