Here is the truth behind the GWP brochure you received in the mail.
Not the whole picture. In the next year this state mandate is likely to be accelerated to 60% renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2045. That’s going to force natural-gas plants like Grayson to shut down. Glendale will then be stuck continuing to pay off the defunct Grayson, while also paying for a new way to meet its power needs. That means even higher utility costs passed to the customer. Back to the top
False. Burning more gas at Grayson doesn’t expand our use of renewable energy locally, and because of the massive increase in energy generation (tripling output, according to GWP), the plant will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25% of Glendale’s total citywide emissions. Back to the top
Misleading. Yes, the renovated Grayson plant will have cleaner turbines than it does today, but by tripling the amount of power it produces, the expanded Grayson gas plant will actually increase air pollution considerably for Glendale and surrounding communities. GWP’s own Environmental Impact Report, indicates greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 415,000 tons per year. That’s 6.9 times more than the current GHG emissions level. Back to the top
Deceptive. Glendale purchases 47% of its power from renewable-energy sources. But once the Grayson project is complete, our impressive lead in renewable-energy use will drop considerably. And, Grayson will produce three times as much fossil-fuel energy locally as it does today, significantly increasing our air pollution. Back to the top
Deceptive. In 2015, GWP said Grayson would cost $340 million. Now they estimate $500 million. Who knows what it will end up costing by the time it’s completed. Add interest to that, and customers will have to pay a minimum of $29 million per year for the next 30 years just to pay off the debt, and that doesn’t include the cost of the natural gas needed to generate power. Furthermore, California is on the verge of passing legislation to mandate 100% clean energy by 2045 which will force Grayson to close before we finish paying off the debt on the plant, and our rates will go higher. Back to the top
False. The Grayson gas plant sits next to the LA River, within a flood and earthquake liquefaction zone. Putting a $500 million plant in a flood and earthquake hazard area is not how you make for a reliable grid. Distributed power generation and storage is the real key to reliability. Back to the top
GWP: “The proposed Grayson Repowering Project means reliable energy in Glendale. This past summer, Glendale set a new record high for power usage close to 350 MW in one day. With only 20% of Grayson Power Plant currently in use due to old and aging infrastructure, Glendale barely avoided rolling blackouts. Our community needs Grayson to run reliably in order to meet the current and future energy needs of Glendale.”
Blatant fear mongering. GWP has contracts with LADWP for emergency power that will keep the lights on. We never “barely avoided” a blackout. GWP wants to scare us so that we will let them build an oversized plant.
The new plant was designed to be large enough to sell power to other utilities. Now California is suffering from a glut of gas power, due in large part to recent overbuilding of natural-gas plants. Many gas-powered plants are closing because there’s not enough demand. In an energy market with few buyers for gas-fired power outside Glendale, GWP is currently scrambling to justify the size of the Grayson expansion.
GWP: “Repowering will allow Glendale to import more renewable and carbon-free energy.”
GWP’s primary plan is to expand the Grayson natural-gas plant, providing merely the option of importing solar and renewable energy. Why not produce renewable energy locally to meet the remainder of Glendale’s power needs? It strains logic to say that building a huge new gas plant will allow Glendale to get more of its power from renewable sources. Back to the top
GWP: “Four years of hard work have gone into making the Grayson Repowering Project a comprehensive plan to revamp our power plant and provide the best reliable service to Glendale Water & Power customers.”
Four years of work by Stantec and Siemens went into this plan, and both of these companies stand to make millions if Glendale moves ahead with GWP’s proposal. Stantec will get to oversee the construction, and Siemens will sell the gas turbines and much of the electrical equipment. Their plan for Glendale was self-serving from the start. Back to the top
All of these benefits are available using local renewable energy options. These renewable options were not seriously investigated by the oil and gas experts GWP hired as consultants. We need an independent study to look at the actual options, not studies by Stantec or Siemens, who stand to make money on a fossil-fuel solution. Back to the top
GWP: “All but one of Grayson’s power-generating units will be demolished and replaced with new, cleaner, and more efficient units to meet Glendale’s needs.”
Yes, megawatt for megawatt the new units will be cleaner and more efficient, but here’s what they’re not saying… Their proposal would significantly increase operations at the plant. Grayson would be run day in and day out, rather than powered up only to meet occasional peak demand, as it is used now. This will increase emissions significantly. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 415,000 tons per year according to table 4-37 in GWP’s own Environmental Impact Report. This is about 6.9 times more than the current GHG emissions level and will increase citywide emissions by 25%. SOx and NOx, which are responsible for various health impacts, will increase by 2.8 to 5.4 times from current levels. These health impacts include cancer, asthma, heart disease, and kidney disease, as well as dementia in older residents. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown these pollutants have significant impact on children living or going to school in the nearby area, causing lowered IQ scores, gross motor coordination damage, impaired cognitive function, impaired essential executive function, impaired inhibitory function, and other neurobehavioral disorders — effects that will last their entire lifetime. Back to the top
GWP: “The modern units will have the flexibility to turn on and off quickly and to provide reserve energy to support increasing amounts of intermittent solar and renewable energy.”
Two of the four new units are permitted to run 87% of the time, and GWP is prohibited from powering them on and off repetitively. Their real plan is to expand the natural-gas plant, providing merely the option of importing solar and renewable energy. Why not produce clean power locally? Back to the top
GWP: “The need to repower Grayson is also environmental. Upcoming air quality regulations will require GWP to do expensive air quality retrofits or shut down the plant within the next few years.”
This is more fear mongering. GWP wants to build a new plant that will cost $2.4 million per month in debt payments, and yet they don’t want to do a cost-benefit analysis of keeping the old plant running for another 5 years or so. Those millions could likely pay for any retrofit or maintenance required at the old plant. Meanwhile, retrofitting and maintaining Grayson would allow us the time needed to make a considered long-term plan for Glendale’s power needs. Back to the top
GWP: “With the proposed Grayson Repowering Project, the plant will utilize current technologies to control air emissions.”
The new plant, while more efficient per megawatt, is scheduled to run much more than the old plant and will therefore emit more pollution per day than what the old, less-efficient plant does today. Grayson would be run day in and day out, rather than powered up only to meet occasional peak demand, as it is used now. This will increase emissions significantly. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 6.9 times more than the current GHG emissions level and will increase citywide emissions by 25%. Back to the top
GWP: “GWP already obtains 47% of it energy from renewable sources.”
If they were to repower Grayson, the renewable and carbon-free numbers will likely fall back to the minimum allowed by law. When GWP is asked where they will be with renewables in 2025, they only say that they intend to comply with state mandates, which are 25% currently, 33% in 2020, and 50% in 2030. Back to the top
Not the whole picture.
GWP: “It will also allow Glendale to support intermittent local solar generation to create a cleaner and environmentally-friendly Glendale.”
That’s true, but so can batteries. Batteries can provide faster support for power fluctuations, and can do so cleaner and cheaper on a megawatt-hour basis than can a natural-gas plant. Back to the top
GWP: “Investing in new renewable and carbon free energy technologies that replace high-maintenance, aged equipment.”
Building a new gas-fired power plant simply is NOT “investing in new renewable and carbon free energy technologies. Back to the top
GWP: “No, Glendale Water & Power (GWP) is not going to expand the Grayson Power Plant.”
The new units GWP plans to install are designed to generate 40% more power than the units they are removing. The GWP general manager told City Council flat out that the new plant will triple actual electricity generation. If this is not an expansion, what is? Back to the top
GWP: “GWP is proposing to finance the repowering project which has an estimated cost of $500 million through the issuance of revenue bonds. GWP sells bonds to finance capital projects, and the payments for bonds are covered by the revenue that GWP receives from its customers based on its rate schedule. The tax revenues that the City receives are not used to pay off GWP bonds. The final cost will not be determined until the detailed design is finalized.”
In 2015, GWP said the project would cost $340 million. They upped that to $500 million in 2017. Who’s to say what it will really cost? Back to the top
GWP: “The repowering will not impact rates.”
The $500 million GWP plans to spend on the new plant would increase the utility’s costs by about $29 million per year. The idea that they can find enough annual savings from efficiencies to offset this cost is just not plausible. GWP is also not telling us that California is on the verge of passing legislation to mandate 100% clean energy by 2045. Once this occurs, gas-fired plants like Grayson will begin winding down, and debt payments will likely be accelerated. This would increase annual finance costs by about 16%, and GWP will be forced to pass those costs to customers. They will say this is not a result of the repowering, but our rates will be going up all the same. Back to the top
GWP: “Units (1,2,3,4,5 and 8) are 40 to 70 years old , are not expected to continue running much longer and maintenance on these units is temporary and costly.”
Yes, the units are old. Yes, they are inefficient, and we all agree they should be taken out of service before too long. But the real problem at the plant is one of neglect. GWP has deferred maintenance since 2014 because they thought no one would object to the plant expansion. However, GWP’s narrative that the plant is about to collapse and leave us without a reliable power source is pure fear mongering. It is designed to force a quick decision and avoid a full and complete study of cleaner options. The cost to maintain the current units is far lower than the cost to begin construction on a $500 million gas-fired upgrade. Investing in keeping the older plant running for a few short years until Glendale can install a renewable energy source is a much more fiscally sound choice. Back to the top
GWP: “If GWP does not repower the Grayson Power Plant, our sources of supply will be limited to purchase power, which is not always guaranteed and is very costly with extreme increases in costs for spot market purchases.”
The old units at Grayson are mainly used today to burn landfill gas funneled from Scholl Canyon. Most of the power we rely on day to day comes from one newer unit at the plant, power we get from a sister plant in Burbank, and imports over long-distance transmission lines. We have long-term fixed-priced contracts for most of that power, so it is secure. If we kept the newest unit at Grayson (unit 9) and shut down the rest of the plant today, we would need extra power for only about 500 hours a year, when demand surges. We could minimize that with better energy efficiency and demand-response programs, and cover the rest with a combination of solar on city-owned and some commercial properties and batteries to store solar power for use when the sun isn’t shining. All this can be done at a fraction of what it would cost to repower Grayson. Back to the top
GWP: “No, the proposed repower is to meet the City’s energy needs and to ensure that there is a reliable source of power for Glendale. GWP is not repowering to sell energy for a profit. The capacity of the Grayson repower was driven solely by the reliability needs of Glendale and minimizing rate impacts to GWP customers.”
In 2014 and 2015, when the plant was outlined in the Integrated Resource Plan, and in numerous City Council meetings since that time, GWP and their consultants stated that the plant was sized to sell the excess power to offset the cost of the plant. They were clear that a plant of that size made fiscal sense only if the excess power could be sold. However, California is now facing a long-term glut of fossil-fuel power, which has forced gas plants around the state to close early. Utilities are currently scrambling to get renewable power rather than fossil-fuel power, because they need to meet state renewable mandates. Consequently, GWP has been unable to find buyers for energy at the reconstructed Grayson plant. So now, in order to gain approval for the construction of the new Grayson plant, GWP is claiming the plans for the expansion never relied on selling excess energy to other municipalities, even though there is a detailed record of them saying otherwise. Back to the top
GWP: “Yes, GWP will be placing solar panels onto the new buildings at the Grayson Power Plant totaling approximately ½ MW. GWP also plans to install 40 MW/80 Megawatt-hours (MWh) of short-term battery energy storage for regulation purposes at Grayson to reduce short-term cycling of the units.”
These plans are not in the EIR for Grayson and would only represent a minimal effort toward increasing renewable energy in Glendale. But Glendale has already identified space for rooftop solar on existing city buildings, and GWP has failed to install it. These new plans are disingenuous at best. They realize that they are out of step with other utilities in the state and are trying to dress up their fossil fuel plant with last minute enhancements. Back to the top
GWP: “GWP is a leader with in California in supplying renewable and carbon-free electricity. In 2016 GWP sourced 64% of the energy it supplied to Glendale from carbon-free sources (compared to 44% for all of California). Glendale is already close to meeting the requirements for 2030 that publicly-owned utilities procure 50 percent of their electricity from eligible renewable energy resources. Today, far ahead of the 2030 target date, Glendale procures 47 percent of its electricity from eligible renewable energy resources. GWP prides itself on being a leader in sourcing carbon free energy. GWP is committed to renewable energy and continues to expand our programs to use more solar and wind power.”
The main reason GWP is currently ahead in supplying renewable energy is that they are using Grayson to burn landfill gas (which they can count as a renewable resource) as well as importing renewable power from outside the state. If they were to repower Grayson, the renewable and carbon-free numbers will likely fall back to the minimum allowed by law. When GWP is asked where they will be with renewables in 2025, they only say that they intend to comply with state mandates, which are 25% currently, 33% in 2020, and 50% in 2030. Back to the top
GWP: “Why can’t GWP just have solar panels and batteries to power Glendale?”
GWP creates a straw-man argument by even suggesting anyone wants solar and storage to meet 100% of Glendale’s needs today. No one is arguing it can or should. Much of the power we use today comes from one newer unit at Grayson (which will remain after the expansion), a sister plant in Burbank, and imports over long-distance transmission lines. We have fixed-priced contracts for most of that power, so it is secure. Together with that power, solar and storage can meet most of Glendale’s energy needs, and energy efficiency and incentives to reduce peak demand can take care of the rest. Our argument is that we should generate the remaining energy that we need using renewable sources here in Glendale, rather than building a large gas plant. Back to the top
GWP: “GWP has reviewed the feasibility of solar PV with battery storage before and also considered solar PV with battery storage as a project alternative. GWP found that such a system is not feasible because of physical restraints. Glendale does not own or control sufficient real estate to develop a utility-scale solar with sufficient capacity coupled with energy storage to reliably serve Glendale’s power needs. Obtaining the required capacity through rooftop solar would be significantly more costly than the proposed repowering project and the pace of rooftop solar development is not rapid enough to replace the need for the Project.”
GWP has not reviewed the feasibility of rooftop solar (PV) with battery storage in Glendale. They are referring to a 2015 analysis by Skylar Properties LLC to “determine the feasibility of developing a utility-scale solar generation and energy storage facility.” Utility-scale storage takes hundreds of acres, so it was a given that Glendale would not be suitable for that sort of project. Skylar is now developing a 880-acre solar utility facility in Nevada, using a 20-year power purchase agreement with Glendale to finance the construction.
GWP then asked its consultants, Stantec and Siemens, who are fossil-fuel experts, to explore solar and storage as an alternative to building a gas plant. No surprise that they said it wasn’t feasible. These same consultants, who stand to make millions off a gas plant, returned with a plan to sell gas turbine units and construction services to GWP. This is how GWP “explored” renewables—by asking a utility-scale solar developer if it could squeeze 880 acres into Glendale’s free space and relying on gas-oriented energy consultants.
GWP can use solar panels and batteries to power Glendale. Right now, Tesla is building a 250 MW rooftop-solar power plant that involves putting solar panels on 55,000 homes and businesses, combined with their Powerwall batteries. It will take 4 years to install all the solar and batteries, but the system will begin generating power immediately, and ramp up as the components are installed. GWP can do something similar by leasing panels to ratepayers in Glendale and selling the electricity generated to customers at a fixed rate. Alternatively, they could do what LADWP is doing and pay low income residents a monthly fee to place solar panels on their roofs. Many cities have taken this approach, and this is the perfect opportunity to do it here in Glendale as well. Back to the top
GWP: “Additionally GWP does not control private rooftops within Glendale.”
GWP regularly makes the point that they can’t implement solar because rooftops are private. But there are many easy solutions to this problem. One is to put more money on the table for incentives, because the current incentive program runs out of money in the first two weeks every year – evidence that the City isn’t truly supporting residents’ desire to convert to renewable energy. Another is to pay homeowners to lease their rooftop space and have GWP own and operate the panels on their roofs. A third is to recommend ordinances that require developers to install solar in exchange for permits. All these strategies are being used by LADWP. Back to the top
GWP: “The permitted emissions from the Grayson Repower project will be less than the permitted emissions from the existing Grayson Power Plant.”
GWP is careful to use the words “permitted emissions.” This means the emissions allowed from the current units at Grayson are greater than the emissions that will be allowed from the units at the upgraded Grayson. This sounds good. But what they’re careful not to mention is that the repowering proposal would significantly increase operations at the plant. Grayson would be run day in and day out, rather than powered up only to meet occasional peak demand, as it is used now. This will increase emissions significantly. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 415,000 tons per year according to table 4-37 in GWP’s own Environmental Impact Report. This is about 6.9 times more than the current GHG emissions level and will increase citywide emissions by 25%. SOx and NOx, which are responsible for various health impacts, will increase by 2.8 to 5.4 times from current levels. These health impacts include cancer, asthma, heart disease, and kidney disease, as well as dementia in older residents. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown these pollutants have significant impact on children living or going to school in the nearby area, causing lowered IQ scores, gross motor coordination damage, impaired cognitive function, impaired essential executive function, impaired inhibitory function, and other neurobehavioral disorders — effects that will last their entire lifetime.
The mitigation measures GWP is promising — buying pollution “offsets” — will do little to help residents in the immediate vicinity of the plant, because offsets allow more pollution here in exchange for less pollution in other parts of Southern California.
Grayson represents the single largest source of stationary air pollution in the city. The real question is not how much emissions will increase compared to the existing plant, but how we can use this historic opportunity to put Glendale on the path to a smog-free and carbon-free future. Back to the top