- PacifiCorp on Thursday updated its coal fleet economic analysis, revealing that customers could save money through the early retirement of numerous units.
- The utility stressed no decisions will be made until the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan process is complete, but said it does anticipate some accelerated plant closures. In January, PacifiCorp said it would delay the IRP by four months, pending results of the coal fleet analysis, and now plans to file by Aug. 1.
- The utility's announcement specifically pointed out four units where early retirement could save customers money: two at the Naughton plant in in Wyoming and two at the Jim Bridger plant in Wyoming. The Sierra Club, however, wants to see PacifiCorp to develop a plan to phase out all uneconomic units.
PacifiCorp's new analysis shows customers will save money when the four units at Naughton and Bridger are retired. But customers could still save money if five other units considered in the analysis are also shuttered, the analysis shows.
Shuttering the four mentioned units would save customers $248 million, but customers would still save $12 million if Hayden Units 1 and 2, Craig 1 and 2, and Johnston 3, were retired as well, the analysis found.
But "adding units in addition to the four would reduce the benefits to customers," PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely told Utility Dive in an email.
Most of the utility's coal units will reach the end of their depreciable lives sometime over the next 20 years, but the utility analyzed whether customers would benefit if coal units were retired as early as 2022.
"The timing and sequencing of any actual coal unit closures will ultimately be determined by a range of factors that also include workforce and community transition considerations," the company said. That decision would be made in PacifiCorp's IRP process, which must ultimately be approved by regulators.
The study "reflects the ongoing changing economics for coal driven by market forces," Rick Link, PacifiCorp vice president of resource planning and acquisitions, said.
PacifiCorp's analysis is "just the beginning" and "reflects what we're seeing across the West," Sierra Club Campaign Representative Christopher Thomas told Utility Dive, also noting the analysis does not include benefits of cleaner water and air.
"We're going to continue to see the same trend, of coal being expensive and renewables being cheaper," he said. "We want to see PacifiCorp start to make a comprehensive plan to move away from coal."
PacifiCorp said it anticipates publishing a preferred portfolio, before it files its IRP, in order for regulators and stakeholders to comment. The company said it will "also work to ensure communities and employees that would be affected by the potential early plant closures are informed and involved in the process."