Letters From the West

Idaho Power says closing part of coal plant would be like jumping off cliff

Lisa Grow, senior vice president of power supply for Idaho Power Co testified before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

Lisa Grow, senior vice president of power supply for Idaho Power Co testified before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

An Idaho Power Co. official testified that it would have to “take under advisement” a decision by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to reject ensuring ratepayers would bear the costs of upgrading a coal power plant in Wyoming.

But if Idaho Power were to face such a decision Lisa Grow, senior vice president of power supply for the utility said, it would have few good options to replace the electricity.

“It would be a cliff we’d have to jump off of instead of a glide path,” Grow testified Thursday.

The company must invest $130 million in pollution-control equipment for the Jim Bridger coal-fired power plant near Rock Springs, Wyo. to meet state and federal rules and a deadline two years away.

“To avoid these investments would be great risk,” Grow said.

Idaho Conservation League attorney Ben Otto presented Grow with company documents that showed it would have a surplus of power through 2024. But Grow said the average surplus doesn’t take into account singular events such as weather or emergencies.

Even if the company were to decide it did not need all of its nearly 1,000 megawatts of coal in plants in Wyoming and Nevada, the Bridger plant’s low costs and reliability would keep it off the list for closure.

“It would be the last resource in our thermal fleet we would remove,” Grow said.

Idaho Power owns a third of the Wyoming Bridger plant, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the region. Two units that generate 351 megawatts of electricity are scheduled for upgrades.

Pacificorp is the plant’s majority owner. Utah and Wyoming already have approved its requests for the upgrade.

The environmental upgrades are needed to comply with regional haze rules under the Clean Air Act, designed to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. Those rules require controls to limit nitrogen oxide emissions by December 2015 on Jim Bridger Unit 3 and by December 2016 on Unit 4.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/11/06/2853315/idaho-power-still-making-its-case.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/11/06/2853315/idaho-power-still-making-its-case.html#storylink=cpy

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West