Tuesday, December 12, 2017

PacifiCorp IRP Sees More Renewables, Less Coal

By Robert Mullin

PacifiCorp has released a 20-year plan that commits the utility to increased investment in renewable resources and energy efficiency while sharply reducing reliance on the coal-fired generation that currently produces more than half the company’s electricity output.

The 2017 Integrated Resource Plan — filed this week with utility commissions in PacifiCorp’s six-state territory — spells out $3.5 billion in capital spending focused on new renewables, upgrades to the company’s existing wind fleet and the construction of a 140-mile segment of the Gateway West transmission project in Wyoming.

The 500-kV line, slated to be in service by the end of 2020, would advance the company’s strategy for tapping new wind development in Wyoming. While the first segment is intended to serve PacifiCorp ratepayers, other portions of Gateway West are designed to facilitate the flow of wind energy into California, where utilities are required to serve 50% of their load with renewables by 2030.

coal energy efficiency pacificorp renewables

PacifiCorp’s latest IRP calls for a sharp increase in wind investments while reducing the utility’s reliance on coal. | Windy Flatts in Klickitat County, WA © RTO Insider

Under the IRP, PacifiCorp would complete construction of 1,100 MW of new wind generation, mostly in Wyoming, by 2020 to take advantage of federal production tax credits. The company would also squeeze out an additional 905 MW of renewable capacity by upgrading its existing wind fleet with larger blades and new technology.

PacifiCorp currently owns or contracts for more than 2,300 MW of wind resources.

Between 2028 and 2036, the company plans to add another 859 MW of wind and build 1,040 MW of new solar capacity.

“These investments will significantly increase the amount of clean renewable energy serving customers and reduce costs at the same time,” Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power, the PacifiCorp subsidiary that serves Oregon, Washington and California, said in a statement.

The plan calls for retiring 3,650 MW in coal-fired capacity by 2036 to avoid spending on equipment to comply with EPA’s Regional Haze rules. An Oregon law passed last year that will prohibit the state’s utilities from importing coal-fired power by 2030 also was a factor in the early retirements of the Craig, Jim Bridger, Hayden, Huntington and Naughton coal units located in the inland West. A rollback of EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unlikely to affect the company’s plans, it said.

“This early closure assumption was considered in PacifiCorp’s Regional Haze compliance analysis to account for changes in market conditions, characterized by reduced loads and wholesale power prices,” the IRP said.

By the end of the planning horizon, coal would represent 31% of the company’s resource portfolio, compared with almost 60% today.

The plan foresees the company building 1,313 MW of new natural gas-fired capacity, down 1,540 MW from the 2015 IRP estimate.

“Reduced loads, ongoing investment in energy efficiency programs and increased renewables reduce the need for new natural gas resources in the 2017 IRP,” the company said.

PacifiCorp expects energy efficiency to offset 88% of forecasted load growth over the next 10 years.

Stagnant loads and energy efficiency programs also caused the company to reduce its projections for wholesale power purchases through 2027 relative to a 2015 IRP update released last year, despite relatively low forward prices. Wholesale market purchases are expected to increase in 2028 in concert with the company’s coal retirements.

PacifiCorp said it developed the 2017 IRP through a process that included input from “an active and diverse group of stakeholders, including advocacy groups, regulatory staff and other interested parties.” The company completed the plan after meeting with stakeholders in five states and hosting seven public meetings.

The company delivers power to about 1.8 million customers in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming through its Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power subsidiaries. The company was the first utility in the West to join CAISO’s Energy Imbalance Market and in 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding to explore becoming a full member of the ISO.

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