IDAHO POWER SHELVES COAL PLANT OVER CO2, COST CONCERNS
Snake River Alliance News Release
Nov. 1, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance Clean Energy Program Director
(208) 433-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell
Idaho Power Co.’s announcement Wednesday that it’s scrapping plans to invest in new coal generation in 2013 shows the state’s largest utility is listening to consumers who demand clean energy resources that don’t add significantly to global warming, the Snake River Alliance said.
“Like most utilities, Idaho Power realizes traditional coal plants are energy dinosaurs that pose enormous health and environmental risks to the public and financial risks to the utility and its shareholders,” said Ken Miller, Clean Energy Program director for the Snake River Alliance. “We congratulate the company for abandoning short-term plans to invest in coal and focus instead on a cleaner natural gas plant to meet its coming energy needs.”
Idaho Power isn’t completely giving up on coal. The utility, which serves most of southern Idaho, says it will continue to explore a possible coal-fired resource later next decade if cleaner technologies are developed. No such technologies exist on a commercial scale, although research continues on whether climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants can be “captured” and sequestered from release into the environment.
“This is an appropriate step forward for Idaho Power and for clean energy,” Miller said. “Idaho Power is also increasing its energy conservation and efficiency initiatives and has committed to bringing more renewable energy onto its system. However, the company still relies on traditional coal generation for more than 40 percent of the power it delivers to its customers, and we in Idaho continue to lag behind our Northwest neighbors in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity.”
Idaho Power is a part owner of three coal plants: A one-third interest in the Jim Bridger coal complex in Wyoming, a half-interest in the North Valmy plant in Nevada, and a 10 percent interest in the Boardman plant in Oregon. Depending on hydro conditions and other factors, those coal plants account for more than 40 percent of the electricity sold to Idaho Power customers. The company’s network of hydropower dams accounts for slightly more generation than coal, depending on water supplies. It receives a small amount from wind power and makes up the rest through purchases from the power markets.
Idaho Power revealed its shift in energy philosophy in its third-quarter filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Known as a “Form 10-Q” the document outlines the financial condition of the company but also discusses regulatory and other issues that may impact the company in the future. The decision to forgo plans to bring 250MW of coal-fired electric generation in favor of a natural gas plant closer to the utility’s main load center in the Treasure Valley represents a major change in Idaho Power’s growth plans for the coming 10 years.
The company’s most recent “Integrated Resource Plan” – its 20-year energy roadmap developed in 2006, called for that 250MW of coal to come online by about 2013. Among other things, that plan also calls for 250MW of wind between now and 2012, and 50MW of geothermal by 2009. And it includes another 250MW of an unidentified clean coal resource by 2017. Wednesday’s announcement doesn’t directly impact the second coal venture. In its SEC filing, Idaho Power made it clear that investing in coal is bad for business and bad for the environment.
“IPC has determined that coal-fired generation is not the best technology to meet its resource needs in 2013,” the company said. “IPC has shifted its focus to the development of a natural gas-fired combined cycle combustion turbine located closer to its load center in southern Idaho. IPC continues to evaluate coal-fired resource opportunities, including expansion of its jointly-owned facilities, clean coal technologies and potential power purchase agreement for future energy needs.”
The utility said it continues to monitor regional and national developments that are almost certain to lead to dramatic carbon emission reductions, as well as a nationwide crackdown on dangerous particulate emissions and mercury emissions – all serious threats posed by coal-fired power plants. “National, regional or state (greenhouse gas) requirements, if enacted and applicable, could result in significant costs to IPC to comply with restrictions on carbon dioxide or other GHG emissions.”
In addition, the utility said it’s coming to grips with how climate change may not only affect the planet, but also its own operations: “IPC intends to continue to add renewable resources to its resource portfolio and will continue to monitor the climate change debate, current climate change research, and recently enacted as well as proposed legislation to identify the potential impacts of global climate change on all aspects of its business,” the company said. For instance, it said long-term climate change could impact precipitation, snow pack and general hydrological conditions.
“Idaho Power also does business in eastern Oregon, and regulators in that state made it clear they’re concerned about any utilities selling power in Oregon having coal in their portfolios,” Miller said. “But more important, Idaho Power recognizes that pursuing coal in today’s climate carries huge environmental and financial risks that ratepayers and the company’s shareholders should not have to face.”
To replace the power from a part ownership with another utility in a coal plant, Idaho Power chose a combined cycle combustion turbine (CCCT), which unlike the simple cycle turbines the company uses sparingly to accommodate “peak” demands in summer are used for ongoing or “baseload” electricity needs. Locating a CCCT in the Treasure Valley also defers the need for large and expensive transmission lines that would be needed to ship electricity from a far-away coal plant to the Treasure Valley, where most of the company’s demand is. In addition, because the gas turbine can be ramped up or down to respond to changes in demand, it can also help integrate new wind farms into Idaho Power’s system because it can help accommodate changes in power production from wind turbines.
Idaho Power’s Form 10-Q can be found at http://www.idacorpinc.com/financials/secreps.cfm.
The Snake River Alliance is an Idaho-based grassroots group working through
research, education, and community advocacy for peace and justice, the end
to nuclear weapons, responsible solutions to nuclear waste and contamination, and sustainable alternatives to nuclear power.