Six Phases of the Power Plant Siting Process

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The siting process determines if a project complies with applicable laws, ordinances, regulations, and standards, if significant impacts can be mitigated, and what conditions of certification are required to ensure compliance. The process is centered on an applicant's Application for Certification (AFC) and consists of six phases, followed by a compliance process, if a license is granted. Those six phases consist of:

  • Prefiling Review Phase: An informal period of planning and preparation before an applicant submits a formal AFC to the California Energy Commission.
  • Data Adequacy Phase: The Energy Commission staff[1] review process used to determine if the AFC is sufficiently complete based on the information required in the Energy Commission's regulations. When the Application for Certification is accepted as "data adequate", the statutory review begins.
  • Discovery Phase: A period of data gathering, public information hearings, workshops and site visits by the Energy Commission staff, agencies, and "intervenors."  Also, period when the staff prepared Issue Identification report is developed and made available.
  • Analysis Phase: Energy Commission staff, agencies and participants hold workshops during this phase to analyze the project and its various issues. Staff prepares a Preliminary Staff Assessment, and later, the Final Staff Assessment. A pre-hearing conference is held to set the schedule and organize information and witnesses for formal hearings. Of note, the deadline to become an "intervenor" or formal party to the process is in this phase (30-days before the first evidentiary hearing).
  • Hearings Phase: Formal evidentiary hearings are held by the Energy Commission Committee (comprised of two commissioners that are assigned to each Siting Case) to hear the findings and conclusions of the applicant, staff, intervenors, and other agencies through written, oral and documentary testimony in order to make a decision based on evidence. The public is encouraged to present oral and written comments.
  • Decision Phase: The Energy Commission Committee prepares and issues a Presiding Member's Proposed Decision (PMPD), followed by a public hearing. Subsequently, the full Energy Commission considers whether to approve or deny an Application for Certification at a regularly scheduled bi-monthly business meeting.

Full details of this process can be found on the website and through Energy Commission publications referenced on the website (

NOTICE: Distributed by the Public Adviser's Office. This is for informational purposes only. It is designed to assist you in understanding the process. It is, therefore, general in nature and does not discuss all exceptions and variations.

  1. In the Energy Commission Siting Process, the term "staff" refers to the technical staff assigned to a project, including the Project Manager and staff counsel (need Chief Counsel advice) for the project.  It does not include the Commissioners, their advisers, the Hearing Adviser or the Public Adviser.