Oregon regulators acknowledge PacifiCorp $3B renewables investment plan, but call for coal study
- The Oregon Public Utilities Commission has acknowledged the $3 billon wind proposal brought forward by PacifiCorp, an important decision for the utility and a reversal of staff's October recommendation.
- This summer, PacifiCorp developed a proposal to invest in 1.2 GW of wind, with a long-term plan that includes more than 3 GW of renewable resources. The utility has also proposed a new transmission segment to bring more power for wind that's build near a Wyoming coal plant, but staff of the PUC were unconvinced the investments were necessary.
- PacifiCorp, at the direction of Oregon regulators, will launch a comprehensive review of the cost of the utility's coal resources. That review will be complete in June.
On Monday, PacifiCorp's plan to develop renewable energy in six states took a step closer to approval with acknowledgement by Oregon regulators. It is a development that can be important in getting approval later on. But in addition to acknowledgement, conservationists are also claiming a victory.
At the request of customers of Pacific Power, a PacifiCorp subsidiary, the utility must evaluate the cost of its coal investments and determine if they still make economic sense. PacifiCorp has coal resources located in Colorado, Montana and Arizona, and the review is a directive related to utility’s Integrated Resource Plan to serve its six-state territory.
Amy Hojnowski, a senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club, said in a statement that “PacifiCorp’s inability to acknowledge the actual risk of its coal assets has kept the west from meeting its true clean energy potential. This coal analysis is long overdue."
The conservation group cites two reports in arguing that 40% of PacifiCorp's coal fleet is uneconomical.
Coal units they say are no longer in customers' best interest include: Unit 4 at Cholla Power Plant in Arizona; Units 1 and 2 at Craig Station in Colorado; Units 1 and 2 at Hayden Generating Station in Colorado; Units 3 and 4 at the Bridger Power Plant in Wyoming, and Units 1 and 2 at the Naughton Plant, also in Wyoming.
According to SierraClub's research, which includes reports 2015 and 2017 reports issued by Synapse, those units have liabilities above $60/kW and maintaining them past 2018 could cost customers $600 million.
PacifiCorp wants to keep its coal fleet online, and some expenses would go towards that energy. The company wants to build a new transmission segment that would travel from a substation near Medicine Bow, Wyo., to the Jim Bridger coal plant — one which environmentalists say is no longer economical.
"If PacifiCorp’s analysis reveals that, yes, our coal plants are costing families, then we as a state need to work with this utility on how we can continue to be an energy exporter, support workers and create new opportunities in Wyoming," Connie Wilbert, Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter director, said in a statement.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the transmission line was connected to the Jim Bridger coal plant.
- Portland Business Journal PacifiCorp's $3.5B wind plan gets PUC blessing, with caveats
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