Oregon utilities, regulators grapple over major renewables investments
- Oregon regulators and utilities are at a crossroads over how much to invest in large-scale renewable energy projects, as Portland General Electric trims its investment plans and PacifiCorp fends off opposition, the Portland Business Journal reports.
- Portland General Electric reduced their proposed $1 billion wind procurement 40% and proposed mechanisms to protect ratepayers from above market costs. PacifiCorp, on the other hand, is facing skepticism over its plan to sink $3 billion into wind energy in its Integrated Resource Plan.
- Oregon Public Utilities Commission staff recommended in final comments that the PUC not acknowledge Pacificorp's wind investment plan. According to an analysis earlier this year, the utility failed to demonstrate a need for the resources.
Oregon is one state bullish on green energy and tackling climate change. But its regulators appear more skeptical of ambitious plans by its utilities to procure more renewable energy — specifically wind.
In June, PacifiCorp drafted a plan to invest $3 billion in 1.2 GW of wind. While its long-term plan includes more than 3 GW of renewable resources, the utility also is making efforts to keep coal plants in compliance and online. The utility proposed a new transmission segment, Energy Gateway West sub-segment D2 - Aeolus to Bridger/Anticline, to run from a substation near Medicine Bow, Wyo., to the Jim Bridger coal plant.
PacifiCorp operates across six states and said the wind projects do not necessarily have to qualify for production tax credits to be viable. But they should be PTC-eligible — and will probably need the credits to "deliver all-in economic benefits for customers," the company said during a presentation earlier this year. The utility also plans to propose 1,000 MW of solar in the same timeframe.
Portland Business Journal reports the PUC staff were skeptical about the wind energy proposal, despite the backing of several environmental groups. The staff called the plan a "risky economic play" that was not justified by regulatory or reliability need. The PUC expressed the same skepticism to PGE, who later revised their investment at the PUC's behest.
PacifiCorp plans to file comments addressing the staff's concerns by the end of October.
- Portland Business Journal Regulators wrestle with PGE, PacifiCorp over billions in new renewables
Follow Krysti Shallenberger on Twitter