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Utility to quicken move away from coal-fired power

Shared from the 10/4/2019 The Denver Post eEdition



By Mead Gruver The Associated Press

CHEYENNE» A major Western utility said Thursday it plans to speed up its move away from coal-fired power and get more juice from the sun and wind.

Citing financial incentives, Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp said it wants to reduce coal-fired generation by two-thirds by 2030 while pursuing a buildout of wind and solar energy.

Federal tax incentives make those renewables less expensive for PacifiCorp’s 1.9 million customers in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, the utility said.

“We are set to manage this transition in a way that keeps costs as affordable as possible for our customers and also maintain system reliability,” said Rick Link, Pacifi-Corp’s vice president for resource planning.

The plan met criticism from coal-industry supporters who said it goes too far, while environmental groups complained that it doesn’t go far enough.

“Clearly the early closure of coal-fired power units and the associated mines is a blow to the people of Wyoming,” said Gov. Mark Gordon, whose state supplies about 40% of the nation’s coal and has three of the affected coal-fired plants.

Sierra Club spokesman Thomas Young pushed for even deeper cuts in coal-fired energy. He said Pacifi-Corp could save customers more money and emit less greenhouse gas by pursuing more aggressive downsizing of the resource.

The utility isn’t alone in stepping away from coal-fired electricity. U.S. utilities have announced the retirement of over 546 coal-fired power generators since 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The decline is largely responsible for a 30% drop in U.S. coal production during that time.

The proposal by Pacifi-Corp would hasten closure of the Colstrip power plant in eastern Montana. Two of the plant’s four generating units are scheduled to close this year; now, the remaining two may close in 2027 instead of in 2046.

It also would hasten the shutdown of coal-fired generators at the Jim Bridger and Naughton power plants in Wyoming and the Craig power plant in Colorado.

PacifiCorp was already pursuing partial or full closure of three other coal-fired power plants near Joseph City, Ariz.; Hayden, Colo.; and Glen-rock, Wyo.; by 2030.




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