Sand box: Redondo,California don’t need new AES power plant

bill brand

The AES power plant in Redondo Beach. Photo by Walt Hyneman

by Bill Brand

Councilman, District 2

City of Redondo Beach

Last April, AES Corporation filed a plan with the State of California to build a new power plant on the waterfront of Redondo Beach. The existing power plant is old and inefficient. Two of the four operating units are over 50 years old. The other two are over 40 years old. Do we need another power plant here? Is it critical to the future energy needs of California? And if not, what will become of the 50 acres of prime coastal property this power plant currently occupies?

Other communities throughout the world, and even recently here in California, have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to phase-out industrial uses in what had become densely populated areas. They’ve created areas for the public instead: Chrissy Field in San Francisco, and the new Wilmington Waterfront Park — both former industrial sites are now cherished by their residents, to name just two examples.

The AES power plant rarely operates. In any given year it is shut down for months at a time. It is not a “reliability-must-run facility” as it was years ago. In fact, according to a California Energy Commission (CEC) report, in 2008 the AES Redondo plant only generated 1/10th of one percent of all the power generated in California, and operated at less than 5 percent of capacity, while one of its larger units operated at just 1 percent of capacity.

The same report from the CEC shows over 3,000 megawatts (MW) of excess capacity in the Los Angeles area. The AES plant is 1,350 MW. During a recent meeting with senior CEC policy analysts in Sacramento, I was told there was enough capacity to retire a coastal power plant in this area, like AES Redondo Beach.

According to another CEC report, California has put over 26,000 MW of new capacity online or under construction since deregulation in 1998.

That’s over 40 percent of total capacity, with more planned. So, contrary to what AES Corporation has and will continue to assert, the South Bay does not need this plant, nor does the State of California. With the California Clean Energy Future program firmly in place, including the mandate to achieve 33 percent of our energy from renewable resources by 2020, plans for a new gas-fired power plant in the most densely populated area on the California coast ignores this bigger picture.

What about the power lines that run all the way to the 405 freeway, with hundreds of acres of right of way land underneath in both Torrance and Redondo? Will they have to stay if the power plant shuts down for good? No one can answer that right now. A resource study will have to be conducted to figure this out with certainty.

To add more inappropriate industrial development on our coast, the West Basin Municipal Water District will soon roll out a master plan for a large desalination plant as part of their re-industrialization of this 50-acre site.

Desalination sounded great when I first heard about it, but closer inspection shows it does great harm to the marine environment, requires a tremendous amount of energy and is much more expensive than other ways to ensure local control of our water supply. More water reclamation, storm water treatment, groundwater recharge, rain capture, and the cheapest of all, conservation, are all far more economical alternatives than desalinating seawater.

The City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water Power have shelved their desalination plans. In fact, they never got off the ground. They’re implementing the above methods instead and saving taxpayer dollars doing it. The West Basin Municipal Water District should follow their lead and re-focus their efforts on the great programs they already have.


AES’s own implementation plan calls for 9 years of heavy construction to demolish what is there now and rebuild their facility.

Imagine the large trucks rumbling down whatever street they decide to rumble down. And what about the noise? Nine years of pounding and grinding will not sit well with the residents or businesses that surround it. Will the new Redondo Shade Hotel be successful with 9 years of heavy construction across the street? Will the senior citizens have to move out of the Salvation Army, or wish they had?

As for air pollution, any member of the public can view annual emissions from the AES Redondo plant by going to the Air Quality Management District website. Operating at less than 5 percent of capacity in 2008, AES Redondo emitted 165 tons of carbon monoxide, 10.8 tons of nitrogen oxides, 9 tons of reactive organic gases, 3 tons of particulates and 24,000 pounds of ammonia. It’s not a stretch to figure that those emissions will be greater when a new plant is operating at much more than 5 percent of capacity.

AES will argue that cars put out much more, as if that makes it okay to increase their emissions into a densely populated area with some of the worst air quality in the country.

Moving on to the visual impacts, just look west the next time you drive by on Pacific Coast Hwy., or straight-up if you’re on Harbor Drive, and assess them for yourself.

The negative impact on property values was described in a study funded by the City of Redondo Beach in 2004. Regan Associates concluded both commercial and residential property values adjacent to the power plant were 30-40 percent lower than property further away. Imagine how much higher property values would be without a huge industrial complex next door, or how much more successful new development like Redondo Shade will be without a power plant across the street. Some of the most expensive property in the country is adjacent to large parks, such as Central Park in New York.

AES currently contributes less than 0.5% to the Redondo Beach General Fund in taxes and fees, so the financial impact to the City will be minimal. While they may face a tax increase if allowed to rebuild, is the potential to increase their taxes worth all the other impacts to our community?

There are numerous incompatible uses adjacent to this site as well, such as the Salvation Army senior living facility, the Best Western Hotel, dense residential development, and other existing and future commercial developments. A new power plant here is not compatible with existing or planned uses.

A city of Redondo Beach staff report in 2004 cited all these impacts and more when they recommended phasing out the industrial uses on our waterfront and rezoning this site for an ‘Ocean Reserve’.

AES may sue Redondo if we move to rezone their land. Nevertheless, rezoning is what should happen, and fear of a lawsuit should not stop Redondo from doing what is best for its residents. This is no place for a new power plant. If the City works with AES to ensure a new zoning is acceptable to both they and the residents, lawsuits can be avoided and an agreement reached.

Redondo Beach is not responsible for buying the plant or cleaning it up if they rezone it. This is a misconception many have. And it is not a ‘taking’ or eminent domain. It’s a rezoning that allows time for AES to complete their current economic interest until the end of its useful life. Redondo is ultimately responsible for the health, safety and quality of life of their residents, not the projected cash flows of any particular property owner.


This is a critical time. Doing nothing is a vote for a new power plant. I encourage everyone to keep an open mind and get all the facts before you take a position. There are many misconceptions in the public arena.

Please go to to read all the reports and sign the petition to oppose a new power plant here. Future generations are counting on us.


Bill Brand


Redondo Beach


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