New Analysis Compares the Cost of Coal and New Renewable Energy

New Analysis Compares the Cost of Coal and New Renewable Energy
09 July 2018

To meet Utah’s electricity demand for the next 20 years, PacifiCorp is tasked with mapping out what combination of energy resources it will leverage to power our lives. It’s called the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), and impacts every Utah family and business.

The energy decisions our utility makes today will have lasting consequences for our air, climate, economy, and health; to say nothing of our monthly energy bills. Utah Clean Energy’s experts intervene in every IRP process, making the case for a cleaner, climate-friendly energy plan that moves away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

PacifiCorp must consider a variety of factors when looking at energy options. At the top of that list is figuring out what types of energy will provide a reliable, affordable mix of energy that also protects the public interest from risks – which in Utah Clean Energy’s view - must include protection against the significant risks and impacts of climate change.  

Recently, an independent energy consulting firm, Energy Strategies, took a look at the economics of PacifiCorp’s oldest, dirtiest coal plants. Commissioned by the Sierra Club, the “PacifiCorp Coal Unit Valuation Study” uses publicly available data to compare the present value of each coal unit’s operating and capital costs against utility-scale solar and wind resources or market purchases.

This report couldn’t have landed at a better time. Rocky Mountain Power is launching its next 20-year planning process, and it is clear we need to maximize renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, and plan for the earlier retirement of our oldest, uneconomic coal plants.

Long Story Short

The analysis shows that:

  • PacifiCorp can go a lot further to move away from polluting fossil resources and towards more energy efficiency, wind and solar, and at the same time save Utah customers money.
  • New renewable energy projects are cheaper than many of PacifiCorp’s existing coal plants.
  • Half of the 22 coal units are more expensive to run than new wind or solar, with potential saving to customers of between $700 million and $2.8 billion by replacing the coal units.
  • The report did not look at energy efficiency, but is also worth noting that Energy efficiency is one of our cheapest, cleanest energy resources, yet Rocky Mountain Power is planning drastic reductions in programs that save Utah families and businesses energy and money.

Excerpts of Analysis Overview from Energy Strategies

Coal Compared to Solar

PacifiCorp Coal Study Slides Page 7

Coal Compared to Wind

PacifiCorp Coal Study Slides Page 8

Coal Compared to Energy Efficiency

While not analyzed in the Energy Strategies report, energy efficiency saves customers money while meeting our energy needs in one of the cleanest cheapest ways possible! When Rocky Mountain Power helps Utahns save electricity through its energy efficiency programs, it costs the utility 2.8 cents for every kilowatt hour saved, which is on par with or cheaper than many other energy resources. 

Alarmingly, while Rocky Mountain Power continues to invest in uneconomic fossil fuel energy resources, it is planning extreme reductions to one of the cleanest and most affordable energy resource available: energy efficiency.

Whats Next

As Rocky Mountain Power launches its 2019 Integrated Resource Planning process, it is clear we need to maximize renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, and plan for the earlier retirement of its oldest, uneconomic coal plants. Utah Clean Energy staff will be digging into the weeds in the IRP process this summer and fall to help make that happen.

Click here to read the full report

Click here for a report overview