Minnesota commission okays latest resource plan of Great River Energy

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Sept. 10 unanimously accepted Great River Energy’s 2014 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) by a vote of 5-0, said Great River Energy in a brief Sept. 10 statement.

It said the commission agreed with Great River Energy and its member cooperatives that the resource plan is in the best interest of cooperative members. Both the PUC staff and Department of Commerce had recommended approval of Great River Energy’s IRP. The PUC’s acceptance of the IRP reflects positively on Great River Energy and its member cooperatives, and will help the cooperative achieve future goals, the utility said.

The commission had not issued a formal written decision in this case as of Sept. 11. A few days ahead of the Sept. 10 meeting, commission staff filed a briefing memo outlining the plan and the issues involved. That includes the fact the commission in September 2013 rejected Great River Energy’s 2012 IRP, in the process setting conditions for the utiility to meet in the now-approved 2014 version of the plan.

GRE owns three coal-fired power plants, all of which are located in North Dakota:

  • Coal Creek Station (1,163 MW);
  • Stanton Station (187 MW); and
  • Spiritwood Station (99 MW).

GRE’s resource plan keeps all of these plants in operation throughout the planning period because, according to GRE:

  • Retaining the plants is the least-cost expansion plan;
  • They are baseload resources, and removing any of them from GRE’s system would significantly and unreasonably expose its members to the wholesale market; and
  • GRE has already invested more than $1 billion in its coal facilities, much of which was spent to install emissions control equipment.

As of 2013, coal-fired energy accounted for 67% of GRE’s electricity production. The rest of its energy supply consisted mostly of renewable energy (11%) and hydro (10%). GRE’s natural gas peaking units deliver about 3% of its energy, with the remainder consisting of wholesale market purchases.

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.