PacifiCorp says it could save money closing 13 of its 22 coal-fired generating units

Energize Weekly, December 12, 2018

The majority of PacifiCorp’s 22 coal-fired units are more expensive to run that other power market options, the company said in a resource analysis.

A total of $586 million could be saved by closing 13 units by 2022, according to the analysis, which is part of the utility’s bi-annual integrated resource planning.

Running the plants would cost more than power purchase agreements for solar and wind. The utility said, however, that more analysis needs to be done.

The data was presented at a stakeholders’ meeting on the company’s resource plan held in Salt Lake City Dec.4. The next meeting on the plan is scheduled for January.

The biggest savings, $123 million, would come from closing the Naughton 1 Unit, in Kemmerer, Wyo. Closing Naughton 2 would save another $98 million.

The next largest savings, $113 million, comes from closing Jim Bridger Unit 1, in Rock Springs, Wyo. Closing Jim Bridger 2 would save $53 million. The units are already slated to close in 2023.

The utility, which serves 1.9 million people in six states, has received state approvals to move ahead with its $3 billion plan to build solar and wind generation, and transmission lines.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved the project on July 20 after the Utah Public Utilities Commission gave its approval in June. Wyoming issued its conditional okay in April. “Oregon and Washington have signaled support,” the company said.

The plan—Energy Vision 2020—calls for adding three new Wyoming wind projects, a total of 1.15 gigawatts, and 140 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines. Another 900 megawatts of existing wind facilities in Washington state and Wyoming will also be repowered.

“We’ve been trying to get PacifiCorp to take a hard look at its coal fleet and whether it benefits their customers and this is a welcomed step,” said Christopher Thomas, senior campaign representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

In June, the Sierra Club released its own study that said wind power would be cheaper than 11 of PacifiCorp’s operating coal plants.

The same day PacifiCorp released its coal cost data, Xcel Energy, which operates in Colorado and seven other states, said it would commit to carbon-free electricity by 2050. On Dec. 6, another Colorado utility, the Platte River Power Authority, set a net-zero carbon goal for 2030.

“PacifiCorp is far behind other utilities, like Xcel and Platte River, who have set zero carbon goals,” Thomas said. “It’s time for PacifiCorp to start replacing uneconomic coal plants with lower cost wind, solar, and battery storage. Clean energy is opening significant opportunities to communities across the West, and saving customers millions of dollars.”

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