When NRG Energy, one of the largest electric power producers in the country, won a contract to build a new gas plant on the beach in Oxnard, California, in 2014, nearly everyone assumed it was a done deal. The region’s electric utility, Southern California Edison, needed a new source of power to keep the lights on in moments of extreme need.
Ordinances were passed by the city council to stop the plans, but the utility company bypassed the city council and received approvals from regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission. With their backs against the wall, Oxnard’s working class, majority-Latino community dug deeper and found more powerful ways to stop the construction of the gas plant. For instance, roughly 30 youth activists in 2017 shut down a California Energy Commission (CEC) meeting in Oxnard by standing up and chanting “No more power plants; we say no,” until officials from the regulator and NRG left the room.
Later, the community invited clean energy providers to show California that it could provide all the energy Sun Edison needed using renewables. Clean energy providers turned out in force; the utility received 341 proposals (some of which incorporated natural gas). Based on that response, the utility advised the gas plant developer that its plant was no longer needed, and in the end, NRG withdrew its application.
For all of us, the story of Oxnard’s fight is a testament to what can be achieved when a grassroots movement unites a community in the fight against heavy polluters. On top of that, it shows us where the energy industry is headed; if renewables can outcompete a gas plant, then we’re getting closer and closer to transition to clean energy in America.