By - Jim Vess

PacifiCorp to close 20 of 24 coal plants by 2038 and invest in wind, solar and storage

Energize Weekly, October 9, 2019

PacifiCorp unveiled a new resource plan that takes a sharp turn away from coal-fired plants toward renewable generation – closing 20 of its 24 coal units by 2038 and adding 8,300 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar.

Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, which serves 1.6 million people in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies, has been working on the new integrated resource plan (IRP) for the last 16 months.

“This is the end of a long and intensive process,” Rick Link, PacifiCorp’s vice president of resource planning and acquisitions, said at an Oct. 2 meeting detailing the plan. Link said the utility was looking for “the least cost, least risk” plan.

Link said an action plan with the first steps in the new IRP will be filed Oct. 18 with regulators in the six states––California, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming–– in which PacifiCorp operates.

PacifiCorp understands that the closing of so many coal-fired units can cause widespread impact, Link said.

“We recognize that those coal facilities have been an important resource in our portfolio for many, many years,” Link said. “The employees that work there have done nothing wrong.” The company will work with communities to soften the impact, he said.

The coal plant closures are being driven by the utility’s own analysis that found the bulk of the units were uneconomical to operate.

A total of $586 million could be saved by closing the 13 most expensive units by 2022, according to the analysis. Running the plants would cost more than power purchase agreements for solar and wind.

The plan calls for closing 1,457 MW of coal-fired capacity by the end of 2025; 2,874 MW by the end of 2030; and 4,485 MW by the end of 2038.

Between 2019 and 2025, PacifiCorp plans to shutter five coal-fired units in four states – Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

That will be followed between 2026 and 2030 by five units spread among three states – Wyoming, Colorado and Montana. The final phase will close three units in Wyoming and Utah.

Some of the units are jointly owned with other utilities, and closure agreements must be struck with the other owners, according to Chad Tepley, vice president of business policy at PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power subsidiary.

For example, five utilities – PacifiCorp, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Salt River Project, Platte River Power Authority and Xcel Energy – have a share in the Craig Unit 2 in Craig, Colo. Tri-State is the plant operator.

“The joint-owners are continually engaged,” Tepley said. Discussions are ongoing. PacifiCorp has slated that Craig unit for retirement by 2030.

Tri-State said that there has been no decision on early retirement of the Craig unit. “We will continue to work with PacifiCorp and the other owners as we plan our transition to a cleaner energy portfolio in a reliable, affordable and responsible manner,” Mark Stutz, a Tri-State spokesman, said in an email.

To replace those coal-fired assets and provide for future demand, PacifiCorp is proposing to add wind and solar generation along with storage and new transmission lines to accommodate the new resources.

The IRP calls for 1,989 MW of new wind generation and nearly 1,821 MW of solar by 2023, including resources through customer partnerships. That will grow to 3,110 MW of wind and 5,186 MW of solar by 2038.

For the first time, PacifiCorp is including 2,821 MW battery storage in its planning, twinning 1,456 MW with solar installations. Solar+storage projects would be built in Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and Washington State.

The plan calls for 14 transmission projects to integrate the wind and solar projects into the grid at an estimated total cost of $2.7 billion.

“The transition in how we meet our customers’ energy needs is underway,” Link said. “With a focus on lower-cost renewable resources and strategic transmission investments, this plan allows us to continue to deliver reliable and low-cost energy.”

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