Planning Our Energy Future

Planning Our Energy Future
07 May 2019

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. 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. 

Opportunity to Retire Coal Units Early 

RMP slide

In late April, PacifiCorp released updated analysis which explores the retirement of several coal units as early as 2022. The analysis shows that customers could save up to $248 million over the next 20 years by retiring four of PacifiCorp’s Wyoming coal units earlier than anticipated. In addition, the scenarios mapping out coal plant retirement call for replacing them with hundreds of megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage resources.

Factoring in CO2 Emissions

As a regulated utility, PacifiCorp is charged with providing “least-cost, least-risk” energy resources. Historically, coal and gas have dominated the least-cost requirement, but no longer. This is due to the fact that falling prices of renewable energy make them cheaper than both existing coal plants and new natural gas plants. But there is another factor in play that is worth noting – the costs and risks of climate change. Given the climate risks we face, Utah Clean Energy pushed for more realistic carbon pricing in the utility’s energy planning. By including CO2 emission costs into the analysis, we are better quantifying the significant costs and risks that come with relying on polluting energy.

Opportunities for More Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, and Storage

The recent coal analysis is not the final say of which (if any) coal units may retire early, but rather one of multiple milestones that will inform PacifiCorp’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Coal currently accounts for 60 percent of the electricity that PacifiCorp provides to its customers. The recent study is a promising outlook for reducing our dependence on coal faster, in exchange for nonpolluting options like energy efficiency, wind, solar power, and storage.

The 2019 IRP has been in the works for months now, with Utah Clean Energy’s experts heavily involved making the case for more cost-effective clean energy. With the coal economic analysis complete, the 2019 IRP is expected to be released by August 1.

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