December 5, 2018 Read More →

PacifiCorp says more than half its coal plants aren’t economic anymore

Utility Dive:

The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary used unit-by-unit analysis to calculate a net benefit or cost for taking the coal units offline by 2022, showing nearly 60% of the retirements would lead to savings. But the utility says more analysis is needed before any shutdown decisions are made.

PacifiCorp’s announcement is not an official step toward early coal plant retirement, but it is part of a larger trend of economic analysis showing the difficulties of coal generation in competing with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy. Last week, the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report concluding 42% of global coal plants are uneconomic due to high fuel costs, saying the percentage would rise due to carbon pricing and regulations.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission directed PacifiCorp at the end of 2017 to launch a comprehensive review of the cost of its coal resources. In September, a Washington Superior Court judge allowed the company to keep the analysis confidential, after the Sierra Club pressed for the figures to be made public.

PacifiCorp’s analysis showed 13 units at plants in Montana, Colorado and Wyoming were more expensive to operate than replacement options. The company presented several scenarios of preparing a combination of coal units for 2022 retirement and found it could save as much as $317 million closing five units representing 834 MW. Those units, in Wyoming and Colorado, are slated to close between 2029 and 2037.

The coal analysis is part of the utility’s 2019 integrated resource plan (IRP), which is due in April. Oregon’s regulators committed to evaluating early coal unit retirements as part of the utility’s IRP.

More: PacifiCorp shows 60% of its coal units are uneconomic

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