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Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need

March 26, 2017

By Ivan Penn and Ryan Menezes : latimes – excerpt

We’re using less electricity. Some power plants have even shut down. So why do state officials keep approving new ones?

The bucolic orchards of Sutter County north of Sacramento had never seen anything like it: a visiting governor and a media swarm — all to christen the first major natural gas power plant in California in more than a decade.

At its 2001 launch, the Sutter Energy Center was hailed as the nation’s cleanest power plant. It generated electricity while using less water and natural gas than older designs.

A year ago, however, the $300-million plant closed indefinitely, just 15 years into an expected 30- to 40-year lifespan. The power it produces is no longer needed — in large part because state regulators approved the construction of a plant just 40 miles away in Colusa that opened in 2010.

Two other large and efficient power plants in California also are facing closure decades ahead of schedule. Like Sutter, there is little need for their electricity.

California has a big — and growing — glut of power, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times has found. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than it needs by 2020, based on official estimates. And that doesn’t even count the soaring production of electricity by rooftop solar panels that has added to the surplus…

This translates into a staggering bill. Although California uses 2.6% less electricity annually from the power grid now than in 2008, residential and business customers together pay $6.8 billion more for power than they did then. The added cost to customers will total many billions of dollars over the next two decades, because regulators have approved higher rates for years to come so utilities can recoup the expense of building and maintaining the new plants, transmission lines and related equipment, even if their power isn’t needed…(more)

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