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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California CPCN for Non-AFC Facilities (7-CA-d)

A public utility seeking to construct a new generation facility in excess of 50 megawatts (MW), available at the busbar or proposing to modify an existing generation facility by 50 MW or more net capacity available at the busbar, but not subject to the Warren-Alquist Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act (the Application for Certification (AFC) process) must complete and submit an Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). The Application for CPCN must be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) within 12 months prior to the date of a required decision by the CPUC. This includes proposed projects that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the California Energy Commission (CEC) such as solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants, other non-thermal power plants, and generating facilities qualifying for the Small Power Plant Exemption.

The CPUC must find that the proposed facility is necessary to promote the safety, health, comfort, and convenience of the public. The CPUC will take factors such as community values, recreational and park areas, historical and aesthetic values, and environmental impact into consideration when deciding whether to issue a CPCN.

General Order No. 131-D


CPCN for Non-AFC Facilities Process

7-CA-d.1 to 7-CA-d.2 - Is the Power Plant 50 MW or Greater?

Only power plants 50 MW or greater available at the busbar, or modifications of 50 MW net capacity available at the busbar require a CPCN. Otherwise the public utility does not need a CPCN and can continue with the project. This process applies to both thermal and non-thermal electric generating facilities.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 1001 General Order No. 131-D

7-CA-d.3 – Application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Proponent’s Environmental Assessment

The public utility must submit an Application for CPCN and a Proponent’s Environmental Assessment (PEA) on the environmental impact of the proposed power plant and its operation. The Application for CPCN must include:

  • A description of the proposed generating facility and related facilities and the manner in which the facilities will be constructed;
  • A map and a description of the location of the proposed power plant and related facilities;
  • A listing of federal, state, regional, county, district, or municipal agencies from which approvals have been obtained or will be required to construct and operate the proposed power plant;
  • Load and resource data setting forth recorded and estimated loads (both energy and demand), available capacity and energy and margins for five years actual and twenty years estimated on the same basis, as reported to the CEC, including a statement of compatibility of the proposed generating facility with the most recent biennial report issued by the CEC pursuant to Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25309;
  • Existing rated and effective operating capacity of generating plants and the planned additions for a ten year period;
  • Estimated cost information for the plant and associated facilities for a period of twelve years, year by year from when the plant begins operation and comparative costs of other alternatives considered on a levelized or year by year basis depending on availability; and
  • A statement of the reasons why and facts showing that the completion and operation of the facility is necessary to promote the safety, health, comfort, and convenience of the public;
  • Safety and reliability information, including planned provisions for emergency operations and shutdowns;

A schedule showing the program for design, material acquisition, construction, and testing and operating dates;

  • Available site information, including maps and description, present, proposed, and ultimate development, and as appropriate, geological, aesthetic, ecological, tsunami, seismic, water supply, population, and load center data, locations and comparative availability of alternate sites, and justification for adoption of the site selected;
  • Design information, including a description of the facilities, plan efficiencies, electrical connections to system, and a description of control systems, including air quality control systems; and
  • Such additional information and data as required by the CPUC for a full understanding and evaluation.

7-CA-d.4 – Publish Notice and Notify Interested Parties

A notice of the filing of an Application for CPCN must be given by the utility company within 10 days of filing the application. The utility must mail the notice directly to the planning commission and the legislative body for each county or city in which the proposed facility would be located, the CEC, the California Department of Transportation and its Division of Aeronautics, the Secretary of the Resources Agency, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the California Department of Health Services, the California State Water Resources Control Board,the appropriate Air Pollution Control District, Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Department of Transportation Regional Office, other California or Federal agencies which would have jurisdiction over the proposed construction, all land owners whose property is within 300 feet of the right-of-way, and other interested parties that have requested notification.

Additionally, the utility must publish notice not less than once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county(ies) in which the proposed facility will be located and the utility must post a copy of the notice on-site and off-site where the project would be located.

General Order No. 131-D, section XI

7-CA-d.5 to 7-CA-d.6 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

Within 30 days after the filing of an Application for CPCN, the CPUC must review the application and notify the utility if the application has any deficiencies in information or data. Thereafter, the utility has 30 days to correct the deficiencies or explain why it cannot correct the deficiencies and when it will be able to do so.

General Order No. 131-D, section VIII (B).

7-CA-d.7 – Conduct Initial Environmental Study

The CPUC conducts an initial environmental study to determine whether the facility will have environmental impacts that require the CPUC to prepare an Environmental Impacts Report (EIR) or whether the CPUC should file a Negative Declaration.

General Order No. 131-D, section VIII (B)

7-CA-d.8 to 7-CA-d.12 – Does the CPUC Determine the Project will have a Significant Effect on the Environment?

The CPUC determines whether the project will have a significant effect on the environment. If the project does not have a significant effect on the environment the CPUC prepares a Negative Declaration and approves the utility’s application for a Permit to Construct. If the CPUC determines the project will have a significant impact on the environment, the CPUC prepares an EIR and initiates the CEQA process.

General Order No. 131-D, section VIII (B).

State Environmental Process :
9-CA-a

7-CA-d.13 – Did the CPUC Receive a Protest or Request for Public Hearing Within 30 Days of the Published Notice of Application?

If the CPUC does not receive any protests or requests for a hearing within 30 days after the notice of application was mailed or published and the CPUC determines whether to issue the CPCN and issues an ex parte decision on the application.

General Order No. 131-D, section XII.

7-CA-d.14 – Does the CPUC Determine a Public Hearing Should be Held on the Application?

If the CPUC receives a protest or request for hearing within 30 days after the notice of application was mailed or published, the CPUC initiates a preliminary investigation and determines whether the CPUC should hold a public hearing on the Application for CPCN.

General Order No. 131-D, section XII.

7-CA-d.15 – Send Notice to Interested Parties

If the CPUC determines that a public hearing should be held on the Application for CPCN, the CPUC sends notice to each person who is entitled to notice or who has requested a hearing.

General Order No. 131-D, section XII.

7-CA-d.16 – Hold Public Hearing

The CPUC holds a hearing on the Application for CPCN to determine whether the public utility may build the power plant.

General Order No. 131-D, section XII.

7-CA-d.17 to 7-CA-d.18 – Does the CPUC Approve the Application for a CPCN?

The CPUC determines whether to approve the Application for a CPCN. If the CPUC approves the power plant, the CPUC issues the public utility a CPCN and the utility may begin building the power plant. If the CPUC does not approve the CPCN the developer may not proceed with the project.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 1001




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