PacifiCorp to add 7 GW renewables + storage, close 20 of 24 coal plants

Source: By Robert Walton, Utility Dive • Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2019

It’s been 10 months since a PacifiCorp review of its fleet showed many of its coal-fired units were more expensive than cleaner options. The utility subsequently delayed its IRP four months.

“This is an important IRP, and it will navigate how we progress through interesting and significant changes impacting not just PacifiCorp but the industry as a whole,” Rick Link, PacifiCorp vice president of resource planning and acquisitions, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

“Effectively, the plan doubles down on wind, relative to the progress we’ve been making,” Link said. It also adds more solar and storage than the utility has previously considered.

PacifiCorp’s plan calls for over 3,500 MW of new wind by 2025, including resources acquired through customer partnerships, and more than 4,600 MW of new wind generation by 2038. More than 1,500 MW are currently under construction, the utility said.

The plan includes 1,920 MW of additional wind resources in Wyoming by 2024, and 1,100 MW of new wind in Idaho between 2030 and 2032.

Solar projections include nearly 3,000 MW of new photovoltaic by 2025, including resources acquired through customer partnerships, and more than 6,300 MW of new solar by 2038. And PacifiCorp says its plan includes nearly 600 MW of battery storage capacity by 2025 and more than 2,800 MW of storage capacity by 2038.

The plan “identifies battery storage as part of a least-cost portfolio for the first time,” PacifiCorp said in a statement.

All storage planned through 2025 will be paired with new solar generation. PacifiCorp will also add nearly 1,400 MW of stand-alone storage resources starting in 2028. New solar and storage resources include:

  • Utah: 3,000 MW solar with 635 MW of battery storage capacity, between 2020 and 2037
  • Wyoming: 1,415 MW solar with 354 MW of battery storage capacity, between 2024 and 2038
  • Oregon: 1,075 MW solar with 244 MW of battery storage capacity, between 2020 and 2033
  • Washington: 814 MW solar with 204 MW of battery storage capacity, between 2024 and 2036.

PacifiCorp’s plan also calls for constructing the Gateway South transmission project, a 400-mile transmission line running from southeastern Wyoming to northern Utah, an addition to a 140-mile Gateway West transmission segment under construction in Wyoming.

“Making the necessary long-term investments to relieve transmission congestion will allow development of additional renewable resources in the near-term and facilitate long-term growth of the region,” said Chad Teply, PacifiCorp’s senior vice president for business policy and development.

PacifiCorp ‘slow walking’ coal retirements

PacifiCorp’s plan to close down most of its coal generation received a mixed response from environmental groups.

“PacifiCorp needs to evaluate the economics and opportunities associated with retiring its entire coal fleet in a timely manner,” Western Resource Advocates’ Senior Staff Attorney Sophie Hayes said in a statement.

The plan “is significant because it acknowledges that moving to clean energy benefits ratepayers,” Hayes said. It’s “a step in the right direction toward a more cost-effective and environmentally responsible strategy.”

PacifiCorp’s IRP calls for retiring:

  • Jim Bridger 1 in 2023 instead of 2037;
  • Naughton 1 and 2 in 2025 instead of 2029;
  • Craig 2 in 2026 instead of 2034;
  • Colstrip 3 and 4 in 2027 instead of 2046;
  • and Jim Bridger 2 in 2028 instead of 2037.

PacifiCorp also said its draft preferred portfolio would include the conversion of Naughton 3 to natural gas in 2020.

“The utility is slow walking coal plant retirements despite spending the last year showing how much money it can save customers with a speedier transition,” Christopher Thomas, senior campaign representative of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, told Utility Dive in an email.

Thomas gave PacifiCorp credit for “finally making some serious plans” to build new renewables. But he also said the plan does not accelerate retirement for almost two-thirds of PacifiCorp’s coal fleet, which he called “out of step with other utilities and the clear economic trends.”

Link told reporters on Wednesday that the retirements would be “staged” to help the utility “mitigate risk, from a reliability perspective,” and to limit the need to rely on market purchases.

In two weeks, the utility will file its plan with regulators in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Public meetings are taking place Oct. 3 and 4 to discuss the plan.

“Fortunately, this is just the beginning of the process,” Thomas said. “But it’s not clear PacifiCorp is ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.”