Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition

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Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition

04/25/2019

A Rocky Mountain Power report recommends retiring Jim Bridger Plant units one and two.

ROCK SPRINGS — A PacifiCorp report suggests shutting down Jim Bridger Plant units one and two as soon as 2022, though officials noted no final decisions have been made. The closure would save customers about $248 million over 20 years, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Gary Hoogeveen told Sweetwater County officials at a meeting Wednesday.

He said the plan is not being looked at to benefit company shareholders nor is it being done for political reasons; “it is strictly economics on behalf of our customers.”

The company, which is split between Rocky Mountain Power and PacifiCorp, serves six states, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington state and northern California, and about 1.9 million customers.

A PART OF A STUDY

The recommendation to close the two Bridger units came from a study of 22 coal units that is scheduled to be released Thursday, and is “part of PacifiCorp’s broader resource mix to determine if customers would benefit from closing a unit or combination of units earlier than currently planned,” according to a company press release.

“Most of the company’s coal units will reach the end of their depreciable lives at different points over the next 20 years,” the release states.

The study is part of the company’s biennial integrated resource plan, which takes a look at what customers need in the future, generally on a 20-year planning horizon, and then it lays out on a road map how the company intends to provide power, company spokesman Dave Eskelsen told the Rocket-Miner.

“In the context of that study we have performed a unit by unit analysis, but we’re still in the economic and reliability analysis and the current long-range plan or integrated resource plan is scheduled to be done in August,” he said.

Thursday’s update is the second phase of the coal analysis. The process began in June 2018, but in December 2018 the company began looking at the cost of each individual coal unit compared to alternative resources. The update focused on the full set of potential costs and benefits from retiring some company coal units and replacing them with alternatives.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR SWEETWATER COUNTY?

Company leaders and Sweetwater County officials said the closure is not great news for the community.

Hoogeveen said the company is in the middle of determining the right thing to do is. The company has about 360 employees at the plant, but it did not have specific figures on those who operate in units one and two.

Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo said the move would not just affect those who work at the plant or the nearby Jim Bridger and Black Butte Coal mines, but service companies who “folks depend on.”

Hoogeveen said the closure may not be done at once. The company may shut down one unit then wait a few years to close the other. At which point, the structures would remain standing until units three and four close, then all would go down, according to Rick Link, PacifiCorp vice president of resource planning and acquisitions.

Units three and four are currently doing well, but they are projected to close around 2037, according to CEO Hoogeveen.

Link said potential energy replacements for the coal-fired plant include solar, wind and natural gas.

The future isn’t as bright for PacifiCorp’s Naughton Plant units outside Kemmerer, which are expected to shut down sooner than Bridger’s units.

“What does it mean for Sweetwater County?” Hoogeveen asked. “It certainly isn’t great news, but it’s definitely not a death nail.

“This is not done. We’re at the next stage of figuring out what to do with the study. As bad as this story is here, the story is still pretty good.”

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but it’s not great news,” Rep. John Freeman, D-Green River, said. “I appreciate them saying they’re willing to work with communities to cushion the blow.”

Kaumo said he appreciated the heads up about the potential unit retirements.

“We at least have the ability to respond in a more educated fashion,” he said.

THERE’S MORE TO GO

Any decisions regarding the units would be made after the release of the plan, which is slated for August 2019, Eskelsen said.

“The company is not making any rigid decisions at this point,” he said.

Hoogeveen said more discussions will take place between the company and communities. RMP will meet with Rock Springs residents and take feedback in June.

“The IRP stakeholder meetings will continue to be held each month to allow regulator and stakeholder feedback ahead of making the IRP final in August,” according to the company. “The company will also consult with employees, labor groups and state and local officials to see if there are ways to lessen the impact of potential early closures on employees and communities.”

“I appreciate that they’re coming to us during the process rather than just telling us that this is what they’re going to do,” Freeman said.

Once a recommendation for the plan has been set, it will go to the Wyoming Public Service Commission to make a decision.

For more information, go to www.pacificorp.com/es/irp.html.

Article Courtesy of The Rocket Miner 

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