Low gas, renewables prices spur Idaho Power to phase out most coal generation
- Idaho Power's 2017 Integrated Resource Plan recognizes the economic pressure on its coal units and sets a path to phase out most of its coal usage, including the early closure of two additional units.
- The utility is proposing to shut down Units 1 and 2 at the Jim Bridger coal facility, totaling 1,060 MW. Rather than perform capital improvements, Idaho Power will mothball the generators in 2032 and 2028, respectively.
- Earlier this year, Idaho Power filed a settlement with state regulators to shut down its 522 MW North Valmy coal power plant in Nevada a decade sooner than originally planned. The utility, alongside its co-owner Portland General Electric, announced plans to retire the Oregon Boardman coal plant in 2020.
Idaho Power says its coal plants still generate capacity during high-demand periods, but baseload from the facilities has been declining—a trend it sees continuing in the region, and nationwide.
"The decline in baseload energy production is primarily viewed as driven by low natural gas prices and the expansion of renewable generating capacity," the utility writes in its IRP. "Because of the low natural gas prices and expanded renewable generating capacity, wholesale electric market prices over recent years have frequently been too low to merit economic dispatch of coal generating capacity."
Instead of upgrading Units 1 and 2 at Jim Bridger, the utility would phase them out. Units 3 and 4, however, were both retrofitted within the last two years and are expected to remain in operation throughout the IRP planning period.
Idaho Power's 20-year plan forecasts annual load growth of 0.9% for average demand, and 1.4% for peak demand. Total customer numbers will grow significantly from 534,000 in 2016 to more than 750,000 in 2036. The utility owns and operates 17 hydroelectric projects, three gas-fired plants, a diesel-powered plant, and shares in three plants.
Roughly one-third of its purchased power came from wholesale markets, with the rest from contracts under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Wind and solar compose 50% of its PURPA contracts.
If Idaho Power executes its planned shutdowns, only Jim Bridger Units 3 and 4 will remain in operation at the end of the planning period.
- Platts Idaho Power plan charts course to phase out its coal-fired generation
- Idaho Public Utilities Commission Idaho Power Integrated Resource Plan
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