SC Edison’s Power Content Label for 2012 – What Has Replaced San Onofre?

I have been waiting since January to find out what sources of power SC Edison used in 2012, especially to replace the nuclear power from San Onofre, that had been turned off since January of 2012. I don’t know why this has become an annual ritual of the September bill of SC Edison. Don’t we all have to file our income taxes from 2012 by April 15? In any case, here are the data (?) and a comparison with their Power Content Label for 2011.

Lets start with mostly greenhouse gas free Nuclear Power, which was 24% in 2011, and was down to 7% in 2012. That is loss of 17% of their power which was greenhouse gas free. I don’t know if the 7% was all from San Onofre before the shutdown, or if some of it was from California’s less known “5th nuclear reactor” at Palos Verde in Arizona.

Next comes power identified as from Natural Gas. Despite the 17% loss in nuclear power, that appears to have decreased from 27% in 2011 to 21% in 2012.

Coal has almost stayed the same, apparently decreasing from 8% in 2011 to 7% in 2012.

Greenhouse gas free Large Hydro has apparently decreased from 7% in 2011 to 4% in 2012.

Now for the 800 pound Gorilla in the room! The Unspecified Sources of Power that is a confusing unknown for evaluating CO2 emissions has exploded from 15% of power in 2011 to 41% of power in 2012, as I had feared in a blog article. This is now the largest and totally unknown source of power. That is why my discussions above for natural gas and coal had to use the word apparent, since the unknowns undoubtedly contain these local and out of state sources. The Unspecified Sources of Power is power imported from out of state.  16.4% of California’s power falls into this category in 2012.  Of this, about 10% of California’s power is in Northwest imports, and 7% is in Southwest imports.  I imagine most of the Northwest imports is from hydro-power and greenhouse gas clean.  The Southwest mix might be part nuclear, part solar, and part coal.

Having 41% of the SC Edison potentially greenhouse gas emitting power unaccounted for subverts the intention of the California law that requires that utilities provide the sources of their power every year.

Finally, we discuss sources labeled Eligible Renewable, since they are made to exclude Large Hydro. These greenhouse gas free sources hardly changed between the years, yielding 19% in 2011 and 20% in 2012. The sector to look for is Solar Power, since advocates of shutting down San Onofre stressed that there was enough solar power to replace it. I had emphasized that they forgot to take into account the only 20% year-round efficiency of solar power. So the result: Solar Power at 1% of SC Edison power in 2011 remained at 1% in 2012. The main source of Eligible Renewables is Geothermal from the Central Valley area, and this stayed at 9% of total power from 2011 to 2012. Next in renewables is Wind Power at 7% in 2011 that increased slightly to 8% in 2012. Biomass stayed the same between years at 1%, as did Small Hydroelectric.

In totaling greenhouse gas free power, in 2011 we had 24% Nuclear, Eligible Renewables at 19%, and Large Hydro at 7%, for a total of 50%, which I was very proud of and publicized, as well as the fact that we used very little Coal.
In 2012, we had 7% Nuclear, 20% Eligible Renewables, and 4% Large Hydro, for a total share of 31% greenhouse gas free power. This reduction of 50% to 31% greenhouse gas free is a relative loss of 38% of greenhouse gas free power. This will potentially be worse in 2013, as even the 7% nuclear may disappear, leaving us with only 24% greenhouse gas free power. What is even worse, is that there might be a lot of coal power hidden in the 41% Unspecified Sources, since coal produces twice the CO2 as natural gas does for the same power.  When the 7% nuclear disappears, the Unspecified Sources may again jump, this time to 48%.

For electric cars, in 2010 I estimated the effective miles per gallon for electric car driving in terms of CO2 emissions from the power mix at SC Edison. Then it was at an effective 105 mpg, which was outstanding.  This will be rapidly decreasing if I had the data to do it again, but it is lost in the Unspecified imported power.

Here we record the State’s Total System Power for 2012 in greenhouse gas terms.  The greenhouse gas free sources are Large Hydro at 8.3%, Nuclear at 9.0%, and Renewables at 15.4%, for a total of 32.7%.  The State Renewables at 15.4% were broken down into Wind at 6.3%, Geothermal at 4.4%, Biomass at 2.3%, Small Hydro at 1.5%, and Solar at 0.9%. Natural Gas was 43.4%, and Coal was 7.5%.

For the Answer to the title Question of “What Has Replaced San Onofre?”, we have an increase of 1% in Wind and 26% in Unspecified Sources, with “apparent” decreases of 1% in Coal, 3% in Large Hydro, and 6% in Natural Gas. To quote Bob Dylan, “the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind”.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
This entry was posted in Electric Power, Fossil Fuel Energy, Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy, San Onofre, Solar Energy, Wind Energy. Bookmark the permalink.

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