Oregon PUC spells out coal data to be in next PacifiCorp IRP

The Public Utility Commission of Oregon on Aug 19 adopted a series of staff recommendations that will require PacifiCorp to include future planning for specific coal units in its 2015 integrated resource plan (IRP) to be filed with the commission.

On July 8, the commission issued its final order in PacifiCorp’s 2013 IRP. One of the recommendations adopted was that workshops be held, including at least one with the commissioners, to refine the list of specific fleet analyses to be performed in the 2015 IRP. Those meetings were held this summer.

In January 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for Wyoming. The Wyoming FIP required selective catalytic reduction (SCR) be installed on the Wyodak coal plant by 2019 for NOx control. The Wyoming FIP also indicated that for Dave Johnston Unit 3 SCR must be installed by 2019 or PacifiCorp must commit to firm retirement by the end of 2027.

Oregon commission Sstaff proposed specific inter-temporal and fleet analysis alternatives for Wyodak as a starting point for discussion. At the workshops, participants discussed and agreed on a list of computer model runs. The Sierra Club originally proposed two additional model runs with compliance dates moved up two or three years. After participant discussions, Sierra Club and other participants agreed to hold off on requiring PacifiCorp to model these additional scenarios.

Staff would expect PacifiCorp to conduct additional analyses such as what Sierra Club has proposed and if economically feasible propose those alternatives to regulators prior to proceeding with installation of SCR at Wyodak.

As summarized at the Aug. 6, workshop with the commissioners, PacifiCorp plans to run each of eight scenarios  through the System Optimizer under low and base gas price scenarios and through two Section 111(d) scenarios. Section 111(d) is the Clean Air Act section under which EPA is proposing its new CO2 control plan for existing power plants.

PacifiCorp agrees to model certain coal unit scenarios

Although the workshops were primarily focused on Wyodak, the following were also discussed and generally agreed upon by all participants, said a staff report:

  • Wyodak, Dave Johnston 3, Naughton 3, and Cholla are the coal units that will be presented in Confidential Volume III of the 2015 IRP.
  • For Dave Johnston 3, PacifiCorp will model and evaluate SCR in 2019 versus firm commitment to retire in 2027.
  • For Naughton 3, the company will model and evaluate natural gas conversion in 2018 versus early retirement at year-end 2017.
  • The company will provide its analysis for Cholla Unit 4 in Confidential Volume III of the 2015 IRP.
  • Although it is likely that pollution control investments will be required in the future at the Hunter and Huntington coal units in Utah, because the final requirements are not yet known and because major retrofits will not likely be required until 2021 or beyond, Confidential Volume III of the 2015 IRP will not contain a detailed economic analysis of potential Hunter and Huntington investments. Rather, alternative actions at these units will be explored through sensitivity analysis as part of portfolio modeling.

The recommendations related to Wyodak in the 2013 IRP final order required that the 2015 IRP analysis include the impact of potential coal plant retirements and reduced generation in eastern Wyoming on considerations for the necessity of the Gateway West transmission segments. However, due to changed conditions in the 2015 IRP, the company is not planning to model the Gateway West transmission segment except in two sensitivity cases. Therefore, the impact of coal plant retirements on that line is not an active issue. However, staff and other parties have asked the company to consider costs and potential benefits of coal alternatives on existing transmission. The company plans to evaluate the costs of reinforcing the transmission system under retirement scenarios, but it has not agreed to explore the potential benefits associated with freed up transmission capacity, reduced congestion and/or increased wheeling revenues. Staff will follow through on this item through data requests if necessary.

At the workshops, the participants also discussed PacifiCorp’s plans for modeling Section 111(d) in the 2015 IRP. These discussions are ongoing.

The Sierra Club on Aug 19 hailed commission adoption of the staff recommendations for the PacifiCorp (also known as Pacific Power) IRP work. “The recommendations, which include a deeper disclosure about the viability of its coal plants and more fully considering alternatives like clean energy, were issued after a series of summer workshops in which the PUC listened to stakeholders from across the state,” the club noted. “In the past, Pacific Power has been denied rate increases for its coal plants and received reprimands from the PUC for seeking to charge customers for retrofits on old and potentially obsolete coal plants without first fully examining the alternatives.”

Oregon Sierra Club Campaign Representative Amy Hojnowski said: “Pacific Power has not been transparent with its customers about the costs of remaining dependent on coal-fired power, and the Oregon Public Utilities Commission is demanding more accountability. While other utilities in Oregon are more quickly transitioning off of coal, Pacific Power continues to cling to its old, dirty coal plants, many of which have become outdated and expensive to run. Pacific Power’s energy mix is still less than 10% clean energy, and over the last seven years they have raised rates on Oregon customers by more than 61%, mostly to pay for their coal fleet. It is unacceptable for Pacific Power to neglect clean energy while investing billions in old coal plants.”

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.