California energy officials are, for the first time, rethinking plans to build expensive natural gas power plants in the face of an electricity glut and growing use of cleaner and cheaper energy alternatives. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has put a hold on a $2.2-billion plan to rebuild several old natural gas power plants while it studies clean energy alternatives to meet electricity demands. And the California Energy Commission is considering an option to halt a natural gas project in Ventura County. The scrutiny comes after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that the state is operating with an oversupply of electricity, driven largely by the construction of gas-fueled generating plants, leading to higher rates. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21 percent more electricity than needed by 2020, according to the Times report. Californians are paying $6.8 billion more than they did in 2008 when power use in the state was at its all-time high. Electricity consumption has since fallen and remained largely flat. Utilities in California have been on a years-long building binge, adding new natural gas plants and revamping old ones, even as the nation’s electricity system has undergone significant change – a move critics have said is unnecessary because consumers are using less power and clean energy technology is making those plants obsolete.
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