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Will Utah Be Saddled With Unwanted Coal?

Will Utah Be Saddled With Unwanted Coal?
17 December 2019

Two years and a dozen meetings across six states, with around 30 stakeholders, and we’ve at last achieved a pivotal breakthrough in negotiations that will impact how fast Utah reduces its dependence on coal-fired electricity generation. What was going to be an automatic assignment of additional coal shares to Utah's Rocky Mountain Power customers has been halted (at least for now) through an agreement signed by a diverse group of Utah parties, including Utah Clean Energy.

The agreement, which has been signed and submitted to the Utah Public Service Commission, outlines an evidence-based public process that will determine whether it’s in Utah’s best interests to accept extra coal plant shares from other states.

Opportunity to Decrease Carbon Emissions

As a brief refresher, Rocky Mountain Power is a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, a utility providing electricity to six states: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and California. Of these states, three (Oregon, Washington, and California) have plans to stop paying for coal as early as 2025. In response, PacifiCorp originally proposed reallocating a portion of coal units to Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho, resulting in no net decrease in carbon emissions from PacifiCorp’s system. This would have increased not only Utah’s allocation of the coal-fired electricity, but also the pollution, costs, and risks associated with these coal plants at a time when increased energy efficiency and renewable energy are a much better bet. Utah Clean Energy intervened to not only keep new coal resources from coming to Utah, but also find solutions to retire the unwanted coal units early. quote

What’s Next

While the agreement reached is a vital milestone to keep new coal resources from coming to Utah indiscriminately, the question remains: will the equivalent of coal that is allocated to these states be retired early, or will Utah and others get saddled with the cost and risk of coal resources that these other states no longer want?

If the Public Service Commission approves the proposed agreement, Utah will hold two evidence-based proceedings to determine if accepting additional coal shares is in our state’s best interest. These proceedings will take place in early 2021 for 10 coal units, and in the summer of 2024 for another 6 coal units.  As we get closer to these important proceedings Utah Clean Energy will update you on the latest!