PacifiCorp responds to critics on renewable energy issues

PacifiCorp said that as the Energy Gateway transmission project is built, it will assess whether new wind capacity additions are needed on its system that can feed into that new line.

PacifiCorp on Oct. 11 filed testimony at the Utah Public Service Commission in response to critics of its 2013 integrated resource plan (IRP), which was filed on April 30. In its comments, the state Office of Consumer Services (OCS) pointed out that compared to PacifiCorp’s 2011 IRP and 2011 IRP Update, there are fewer wind resources in the 2013 IRP Preferred Portfolio and that they show up later in the planning horizon. Based upon this observation, OCS concluded that certain segments of the Energy Gateway project may not be needed.

“PacifiCorp reiterates that it has not used the 2013 IRP to support action items to construct Energy Gateway Segments beyond the Sigurd to Red Butte transmission project (Segment G), which is required to meet network load and system reliability requirements,” said PacifiCorp. “As permitting efforts proceed, PacifiCorp will continue to assess the costs and benefits for specific Energy Gateway transmission projects through its ongoing planning efforts. PacifiCorp notes that it has the burden of demonstrating the necessity of each of these segments through [certificate of public convenience and necessity] proceedings where OCS and other parties will have the opportunity to participate. PacifiCorp further notes that in addition to CPCN proceedings, recovery of its costs for all transmission lines are subject to prudence reviews in ratemaking proceedings where OCS and other parties will also have the opportunity to participate.”

PacifiCorp noted that it does not have in its 2013 IRP Action Plan any items to initiate construction of the Segment D line. PacifiCorp will continue to evaluate Segment D and other Energy Gateway segments in its on-going planning efforts. PacifiCorp further noted that it did analyze a range of transmission investments in the 2013 IRP. For example, one scenario included the Sigurd-to-Red Butte transmission investment and other scenarios included both the Gateway West and Gateway South segments. Action Item 9c identifies PacifiCorp’s intentions to complete construction of the Sigurd-to-Red Butte 345-kV transmission line (Segment G), which is required to satisfy the company’s obligations to its network transmission customers under its tariff and comply with mandatory reliability standards.

In 2007, PacifiCorp launched the Energy Gateway project – an ambitious, multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment that will add about 2,000 miles of new transmission lines across the West. The first major segment of this project – Populus-to-Terminal – was placed into service in November 2010. The second major segment – Mona-to-Oquirrh – began serving customers in May 2013. Also in May, construction began on the third segment, which is Sigurd-to-Red Butte.

PacifiCorp responds to criticism about solar cost estimates

Another critic is the Utah Clean Energy & Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (UCE). UCE contends that PacifiCorp’s costs for utility scale solar resources are significantly inflated, and that prices have continued to drop. UCE said it expected PacifiCorp to run sensitivity analysis for solar costs to determine at what price point solar would be selected by System Optimizer. UCE further stated that the capacity value of renewable resources was underestimated in the 2013 IRP.

UCE recommended that the commission order PacifiCorp to change its action plan to:  model updated cost and capacity values for solar and wind to inform the IRP Update;

  • issue a request for information (RFI) immediately to obtain updated solar market information;
  • work with the wind industry to get updated wind cost data;
  • utilize that information in sensitivity analysis using System Optimizer to see if more accurate solar costs and capacity values change portfolio results, using the recently approved interim solar capacity values; and
  • if solar cost data from the RFI will take too long to be incorporated into the IRP Update, alternative data could be utilized such as first or second quarter GTM research cost data.

UCE further recommended that PacifiCorp conduct a more focused study effort for the next IRP cycle to develop a better assessment of solar, wind, and geothermal costs.

On solar costs, PacifiCorp said that it was responsive to stakeholder comments provided during the public input process, and adopted a solar cost curve showing real de-escalation of capital costs consistent with data from a Black & Veatch report prepared on behalf of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

PacifiCorp said it believes its solar cost assumptions applied in the 2013 IRP are reasonable and it does not agree with UCE’s recommendations to provide updated portfolio analysis in the 2013 IRP Update. Nonetheless, PacifiCorp said it remains committed to updating its solar cost inputs for the 2015 IRP planning cycle as informed by the RFI consistent with Action Item 1d in its 2013 IRP Action Plan. Moreover, as it does through the normal course of business, PacifiCorp will update its wind resource cost assumptions as it prepares for the 2015 IRP planning cycle.

“PacifiCorp recognizes UCE would have liked to see additional sensitivity analysis to better understand where costs would need to be before solar resources are selected by System Optimizer,” the company said. “While it is PacifiCorp’s goal to be responsive to all stakeholders and all requests, it is not often practical or possible to accommodate all requests. Unfortunately, PacifiCorp was unable to complete these additional sensitivity scenarios while concurrently completing the extensive core case and stochastic risk analysis modeling required as part of the 2013 IRP. PacifiCorp is exploring IRP process improvements and will work with UCE and other stakeholders to implement these improvements for the 2015 IRP planning cycle.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.