From Decommissioning San Onofre to Rooftop Solar, Edison International CEO Provides Candid Look at Utility Industry

Community leaders gather at the Orange County Forum for a Q&A with Ted Craver.

January 27, 2014 | By Susan Cox

IRVINE, Calif.—Even  though the San Onofre nuclear plant is retired and no longer producing 2,200 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve 1.4 million homes at any point in time, there’s still plenty of work to be done, including decommissioning the plant and safely managing the nuclear material at the site.

“The community has hosted SONGS for more than 40 years. The plant has provided lots of benefits to the communities in the form of jobs, taxes and other economic activities,” said Ted Craver, chairman, president and CEO of Edison International, to approximately 130 leaders at the recent Orange County Forum. “We aspire to do what’s right for the communities, to be a good partner and a good neighbor with the communities.”

He noted that safety was the No. 1 priority of the plant’s decommissioning process and at the lowest cost that’s consistent with public health and safety. And Craver believes it is also an opportunity for Southern California Edison (SCE) to be a model for the electric power industry on how to decommission a nuclear plant.

“There are other plants that are going to be decommissioned,” he said. “We think we will have an opportunity to really show how to do that right. Balancing interests and doing a top notch job is really important to us.”

SCE plans to submit three different decommissioning process proposals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review and approval sometime this year, perhaps this summer.

In addition, the company has an obligation to replace the lost power from San Onofre and provide reliable electricity to California homes, said Craver. He noted the importance of ongoing dialogue with the community about issues and decisions that impact the plant.

SCE is working closely with the California Public Utilities Commission and the Governor’s office on plans to replace the power lost from the closure of San Onofre. 

Craver said an SCE team has been involved in a preferred resources pilot that seeks to bring together energy efficiency, distributed energy resources, energy storage, demand response programs, and other innovations, and still maintain a reliable, resilient power system.

In addition to the nuclear plant, Craver shared his thoughts on other topics affecting the future of energy in Southern California.

On rooftop solar and shifting costs, he said, “People who don’t have solar are picking up all of those other costs — grid costs, call centers, billing and all that stuff — and the people who have solar on their roofs are, in a sense, not paying for that part because they’re getting credited for that in their retail rate. That’s a cost shift from those who have solar to those who do not have solar.”

Craver also spoke about renewables and distributed energy resources, noting that: “People view these as resources that will be considerably cleaner than utilizing fossil fuels whether that is coal or natural gas or petroleum. Those have been the mainstay of the fuel source for generating electricity throughout the country for decades.”

But no more, he said. Today, more and more states are reinventing themselves and adopting some form of renewable energy standards.

“California has the most aggressive renewable portfolio standard,” Craver said. “Thirty-three percent of all the electricity delivered to our customers’ needs to come from renewable resources by 2020. We’re well on our way to that. And I don’t see a difficulty in us meeting that 33 percent mandate.”

Like many of his public statements, Craver again noted the substantial transformation the utility industry is undergoing. He predicts that in the next 10 years, the industry will see more change than it has in the past 100 years.

And while the utility industry spends billions on the electric grid annually, investing in the system is critical to keep the grid viable, refurbished and strong.

“These days, with technology, the value of the electric grid requires a higher and higher level of quality for greater resiliency,” said Craver. “We need to invest in the grid to keep the system in check to make sure it’s even more resilient and flexible as these new technologies come online.”         

Topics: Customer Service