Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for just over 50% of new utility-scale generating capacity added in 2013. Solar provided nearly 22%, a jump up from less than 6% in 2012. Coal provided 11% and wind nearly 8%. Almost half of all capacity added in 2013 was located in California. In total, a little over 13,500 megawatts (MW) of new capacity was added in 2013, less than half the capacity added in 2012.
Natural gas capacity additions were less than in 2012, as 6,861 MW were added in 2013, compared to 9,210 MW in 2012. The capacity additions came nearly equally from combustion turbine peaker plants, which generally run only during the highest peak-demand hours of the year, and combined-cycle plants, which provide intermediate and baseload power.
Nearly 60% of the natural gas capacity added in 2013 was located in California. The state is facing resource adequacy concerns as well as the need for more flexible generation resources to help complement more variable-output renewable resources, particularly solar, being added to the system.
California added 6,395 MW of capacity, 47% of all capacity added in 2013. The state has added a large amount of new capacity in an effort to deal with a number of problems challenging the state’s resource adequacy and grid reliability, including:
California’s once-through cooling water policy, passed in 2010, is requiring power plants using once-through cooling—a substantial portion of the state’s existing capacity—to either invest in costly retrofits to reduce their water consumption or retire over the next decade.
The unexpected outage in 2012, and subsequent permanent retirement in 2013, of the 2,150 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) plant in Southern California further exacerbated the state’s near- to mid-term resource adequacy and reliability concerns.
California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard policy requiring 33% renewable energy by 2020 has led the state’s electric utilities to procure new renewable capacity at a far higher rate than any other state. Integrating these growing levels of variable renewable generation has required more flexible resources to maintain grid reliability and to adapt to the grid’s evolving generation needs.