There has been an ongoing emotional upheaval about how to argue against the contentious proposal by NRG Energy Inc., originally filed in 2015, for the Puente Power Project at the Mandalay Generating Station along Harbor Boulevard in Oxnard. While NRG Energy has remained insistent that this new power plant is essential to meet the needs of Ventura and Santa Barbara County residents for the next several decades, the company has also agreed, should the proposal be approved, that it would demolish two existing plants at the site, one which would need to be replaced by 2020 due to new environmental regulations. The proposed new natural gas fired plant would also be sleeker and more environmentally friendly, with fewer emissions due to a faster start up. Social justice and environmental advocates, however, have not backed down in their efforts to officially block approval of the project.
Over the course of the last couple of years, an array of arguments have been presented. They include rising sea levels and the plant being in prime position to be impacted by such changes; disadvantaged communities in Oxnard having an unfair share of breathing problems, mainly asthma, which advocates indirectly correlate with emissions from power plants; that the limited coastline should not bear yet another power plant and more. One meeting with NRG Energy was even taken over by loud and visibly angry protesters, forcing representatives to cancel the meeting. Additionally, the L.A. Times recently reported that California is already overpowered, with some energy plants being underutilized and even shut down. But it was one particular study that revealed the most encouraging sign that a new power plant may not be necessary after all.
The California Independent System Operator, which oversees maintenance the state’s power grid, released a report on Aug. 16, “Moorpark Sub-Area Local Capacity Alternative Study,” which quantifies what is needed if Puente is absent: storage for solar power. This study came to be after two commissioners with the California Energy Commission sought more information on alternative energy sources. The findings, though only substantiating what was needed versus what was feasible, are rather stunning, a true testament to the overall commitment to getting away from “dirty energy” and onto the sustainable, given that climate change doesn’t force California under the clouds for any unreasonable duration.
While there are still many unknowns as to how to establish enough storage to meet demand, this is proof of progress and that we are collectively heeding the call, both on an individual basis and as business owners and bureaucrats, to cleaner, sustainable and even cost-effective energy. And that momentum simply can’t be stopped, regardless of who is in power.