AES Closes California Natural Gas-Fired Plant

AES Corp. has ended operations at one of the group’s four remaining natural gas-fired power plants in California. AES on Dec. 31 shut down its 1,300-MW Redondo Beach Generating Station, a facility that operated at less than full capacity in recent years, providing electricity to support the grid during periods of peak demand for power.

AES in early 2023 said it would close the power plant, which came online in 1954, by the end of the year. City officials marked the shutdown with a ceremonial flip of a switch on New Year’s Eve, marking the end of the plant’s operations.

Redondo Beach officials had long sought closure of the plant, noting in a recent news release that “The retirement of the AES power plant represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for Redondo Beach, and the entire Santa Monica Bay.”

“AES is proud to have been part of this historic effort to support the state’s grid reliability needs and looks forward to partnering on future renewables opportunities in the state,” an AES spokesperson said in a statement ahead of Sunday’s event. “AES will work with the owners, the City of Redondo Beach and applicable authorities to ensure a smooth property transition in 2024.”

Closure of Gas-Fired Units

California originally had scheduled all of the state’s natural gas-fired units that are cooled by ocean water to be closed by year-end 2020, a decision made by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2010. The board cited negative impacts to marine life when seawater was moved into the power plants.

Regulators, though, later approved operating extensions for AES plants along the coast after the state experienced rolling blackouts due to a series of extreme heat waves. Energy analysts told officials that unless California increased its buildout of renewable energy resources, or kept some gas-fired units operating—and also kept the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant online—those power shortages would likely continue.

The water control board in August 2023 said the AES plants, other than Redondo Beach, could continue to operate at least through 2026, instead of being closed at the end of last year. Those plants—the Ormond Beach Generating Station in Oxnard, the Alamitos Energy Center in Long Beach, and the Huntington Beach facility—will be able to operate to provide a backup source of electricity during power emergencies.

The Redondo Beach plant, owned by AES Southland Energy, had four gas-fired units and sold its power to Southern California Edison.

Redevelopment Questions

Redevelopment of the 50-acre power plant site in Redondo Beach remains undetermined. Leo Pustilnikov, a real estate developer who bought the site in 2020, has proposed building a large mixed-use residential and commercial complex on the land, but has received pushback from local officials.

Pustilnikov has filed a lawsuit, reportedly set for trial in March, in an effort to force the city to process his application for redeveloping the site. Pustilnikov has said he would like to begin repurposing the site at some point this year.

Pustilnikov also has said that AES’ lease on the property means he cannot do anything at the site for another several months.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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