An UNOFFICIAL History of
Power Plant Licensing at the California Energy Commission
By David Mundstock, Attorney at the California Energy Commission (Staff Counsel & Senior Staff Counsel), 1980-2002, Now Retired
The views expressed on this site, except for quotations, are my own, and cannot be attributed to any public agency, private organization, or other individual. 

If you are looking for the California Energy Commission official web site, click on CEC.
Some errors are inevitable and certain information may be outdated.  Please send comments to davidmundstock@msn.com
If you are familiar with the Energy Commission and its power plant licensing process, skip this section.  Otherwise click on: General Background.
For Siting Case Histories listed alphabetically by Case Name, click on A-Z.
For Siting Case Histories listed chronologically by Docket Number, click on Dockets.
The Historical Time Line.
I have organized the Energy Commission's last quarter century into a series of partially overlapping eras.  You can click on any siting case underlined in blue to read that  case history. .
I. The Age of Dinosaurs (1975-1980)
To read a summary of the Energy Commission's early successful battles against utility nuclear and coal plants, click on Age of Dinosaurs.

Click on the underlined case name to read the fossil record:

Southern California Edison's Lucerne Valley Project.

A coal gasification demonstration project that was licensed: Cool Water.

Ultimately, all large utility projects from the era became extinct. None were ever licensed by the Energy Commission.
II. The Geysers Boom and Bust (1979-1985)
The Energy Commission's first preferred technology was geothermal power.  Geothermal plants were licensed in the Geysers of Sonoma and Lake Counties, until they literally began to run out of steam.  To read a summary of this era (and a tribute to CEC Chairman Chuck Imbrecht), click on Geysers Boom and Bust.

Click on any of the following Geysers plants to read an individual siting case history:
PG&E Facilities (the Geysers Pioneer)
Geysers 16 (Override and Calif. Supreme Court  Case) Geysers 17   Geysers 18   Geysers 20  Geysers 21

Municipal Utilities
NCPA 3   SMUDGEO  CCPA Coldwater Creek
GPPL (an unfortunate transmission line)
Department of Water Resources (DWR)
Bottle Rock (bad luck)   South Geysers (worse luck)
corrosive steam.
Occidental   Oxy
To translate some acronyms, view all the siting cases listed  alphabetically, and select any case history- click on A-Z.

III. Qualifying Facilities and the Cogeneration Era (1981-1990).
Power plants are bursting out in endless varieties, with cogeneration (another preferred technology) as king and the utilities on the sidelines.  To read a summary of the hectic Qualifying Facility (QF) era, click on Qualifying Facilities..

Click on any of the following case histories to read them:

Oil Field and Oil Refinery Cogeneration plus Self Generation
Other Industrial Cogeneration
Garbage Burners (Municipal Solid Waste)
(They all crashed and burned for good reasons.)
Texaco   Kern River  Tosco  Shell Belridge (900 MW coal cogeneration, too ambitious)  Placerita   Sycamore   ARCO-Watson (need contested)  Midway-Sunset 1   Champlin   Mobil Belridge and San Ardo (no utility contracts)  El Segundo (self-generation)   Chevron Richmond (self-generation)   Shell Western's SWEPI (already constructed)
Gilroy Foods   Basic American Foods   Crockett 1 and Crockett 2 (applicant's attitude matters)   IBM (self-generation pioneer, but never built) ARGUS or ACE (coal demonstration project)   Santa Maria (mining)   Mojave                                                
Irwindale (perhaps the least popular applicant ever)
SANDER (rejected by San Diego's voters)
Bay Area Resource Recovery Facility (BARRF) (had no fuel)
Solar (The Epic Story of Luz)
   Large scale solar + heat transfer fluid + natural gas = Problems
Units 3-7  Unit 8 (major accident)  Units 9-10  Units 11-12  (bankruptcy)
Utility Solar   SCE's Solar 100 (not built)
To view all the cases in chronological order, and select any case history - click on Dockets.
Geothermal    China Lake/Coso
not built
Utility Repowering   SDG&E's South Bay  withdrawn 3 times
IV. The VOID (1990-1997)
Power plant applications at the CEC become fewer, and then stop entirely as the state prepares for deregulation.  To read a summary of this period, click on The Void.   Municipal utilities, especially SMUD, are the main applicants.

Click on any of the following case histories to read them:
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)
Carson   Campbell   Proctor and Gamble   SMUDGAS
Sacramento Ethanol and Power Cogeneration Project
(SEPCO) & SEPCO 2 (controversial, licensed, not built)
Imperial Irrigation District   El Centro.
City of Redding   Redding Peaking Plant
San Francisco Energy (the most disputed case of this era)
Shell Cogeneration Project (Martinez)
V. Deregulation, Merchant Plants, and the Supply Crisis/Glut (1997-200?)
Everything goes wrong as deregulation collapses.  But, before and after this failure, the Energy Commission is buried in merchant plant AFCs.  For my attempt at an explanation, click on Deregulation & Merchant Plants..

The first 18 merchant plants are presented in alphabetical order.   17 were licensed.  Click on any underlined plant to read its history.
Blythe  Contra Costa  Delta Energy Center   Elk Hills   High Desert   Huntington Beach    La Paloma   Los Medanos (Pittsburg)   Metcalf Energy Center (the most controversial, with an override of the San Jose City Council)  Midway Sunset 2   Moss Landing   Mountainview   Nueva Azalea (withdrawn)  Otay Mesa   Pastoria   Pittsburg (Los Medanos)   Sunrise Power Project   Sutter Power Plant   Three Mountain   Western Midway Sunset (Midway Sunset 2)
VI. Policy Observations in 2002
My opinions on energy policy issues facing the state from a 2002 vantage point.  Most of the changes I advocated would require action by the Legislature and the Governor, as well as the Energy Commission and other agencies.  To read these heresies, click on Policy Observations.
This page was last updated on: March 18, 2015
The Jargon Understanding Glossary (JUG) was considered by many people to be my best work at the Energy Commission.  It translates over a thousand acronyms into English.  Such a document can never be completely up to date.  JUG XIII is about 20 years old and only slightly updated.  Nevertheless, click on JUG to give it a try.
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