By Ed Halpin
Diablo Canyon Power Plant contributes a quarter of a billion dollars a year to the local economy, based on 2011 data analyzed in a new study led by the Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business. That’s real money for a community of a few hundred thousand people.
Although the primary goal of PG&E and its many local Diablo Canyon employees is to keep the plant running safely and efficiently, we also value our place in the community. As part of that connection, we take pride in the documented role that the plant plays in powering the local economy.
The new report finds Diablo Canyon is as mighty an economic engine as it is a power generator, with a total economic impact of $920 million in 2011.
The biggest direct contribution was the electricity the facility produced that year, which had a wholesale value of $675 million. The benefits of this clean, reliable and affordable electricity were felt by all of PG&E’s customers. Nuclear energy makes up more than 20 percent of the electricity we provide to our customers and is among the lowest cost sources of power that we generate, helping to keep electricity rates down.
Another $244 million, about a quarter of a billion dollars, in local indirect and induced economic benefits were made possible by those energy sales. Those local benefits include the plant’s purchases with area businesses, as well as spending by Diablo Canyon employees and retirees living in the area.
As the largest private employer in the area with more than 1,400 workers and a payroll of $202 million in 2011, Diablo Canyon employees played a major role in supporting the local economy by patronizing businesses, owning and renting homes, and paying for medical and other services.
Those benefits were compounded by the more than 700 retired employees who still call the region home, and whose pension payments exceeded $19 million.
Many local businesses and their workers were also sustained by the plant’s local purchases of products and services, which exceeded $22 million in 2011.
In addition, the report notes that PG&E paid more than $25 million in local property taxes in fiscal year 2011-12, more than any other entity. These funds helped support schools, public work projects, sheriff’s offices, health and other vital services. In a time of general austerity and belt-tightening, Diablo Canyon’s steadily growing property tax payments helped mitigate potential cuts to roads, libraries, and employees’ jobs and benefits. And that doesn’t include the estimated $5 million in local sales taxes generated by the plant’s existence.
Any such picture would be incomplete, however, without including the charitable giving of our employees. The study reports that employees volunteered more than 32,000 hours of their personal time and contributed more than $429,100 to local charities in 2011. This giving was augmented by PG&E’s direct charitable contributions of about $1.1 million to more than 90 local nonprofits.
Looking beyond 2011, the report concludes that if the plant’s operating licenses are renewed, the plant will continue to provide economic benefits similar to those that exist today. It estimates the total economic impact over a 20-year license extension period at more than $42 billion.
We at Diablo Canyon who live and work on the Central Coast are proud of the friendships we’ve made, the community partnerships we’ve built, and now more than ever, the contribution our daily work makes to the economic health of our region.
Ed Halpin is the senior vice president and chief nuclear officer for PG&E. This commentary originally appeared in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.