February 14, 2013
Study Supports Keeping Coal Plants
BOISE, Idaho -- A study released by Idaho Power shows that keeping its coal-fired power plants in the utility's long-range plan is economically preferable to other options despite anticipated expenses for stricter environmental controls.
In an update to its 2011 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the company recommends that the Jim Bridger plant near Rock Springs, Wyo., and the North Valmy Generating Station near Battle Mountain, Nev., continue to be included in its resource portfolio. A third plant, at Boardman, Ore., is slated to cease coal-fired operations by the end of 2020.
The study, which includes analysis from both Idaho Power and a third-party contractor, was filed today with utility regulators in Idaho and Oregon.
The company is currently developing its 2013 IRP, which will forecast customer demand and the preferred portfolio of resources to meet that demand for the next 20 years.
"Based on the research and the facts as we know them today, it's clear that continuing to maintain and upgrade our coal plants is the best option for our customers, both in terms of cost and in reducing risk by maintaining a diverse resource portfolio," said Tom Harvey, joint projects manager for Idaho Power.
Idaho Power will continue to revisit its analysis of the total costs of its coal-fired generation units as it updates the IRP every two years or in the event emissions requirements change.
In a typical year, coal generation provides about 42 percent of the electricity used by Idaho Power customers. That figure is expected to drop due to the 2012 addition of the Langley Gulch natural gas-fired plant near New Plymouth, Idaho.
The company is a 50-percent partner with NV Energy at the North Valmy Generating Station, which has two units that produce power using low-sulfur coal from Wyoming and Utah. In addition to providing up to 262 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Idaho Power customers, the North Valmy station is a critical facility for the reliability of the electric system in northern Nevada.
PacifiCorp owns two-thirds of the Jim Bridger plant; Idaho Power owns the other third. The Jim Bridger plant’s four generating units contribute up to 704 MW to Idaho Power’s electrical system. Idaho Power’s share of the energy from these two plants is enough to power more than 800,000 homes.
"It's important to note the partnerships we have with other utilities in these projects," Harvey said. “Any decisions about the future operation of those plants will have to be made in conjunction with our fellow utilities that operate the facilities."
The study examines the likely cost of complying with anticipated regulations versus the cost of converting the plants to burn natural gas, or replacing the generation with new gas-fired plants.
The study compared scenarios involving a range of projected natural-gas prices and potential legislation regarding carbon emissions, as well as the cost of anticipated environmental upgrades.
Based on the best information currently available, and under the planning scenario used in the study, continuing to operate Jim Bridger and Valmy over the next 20 years would save Idaho Power’s customers over $1 billion when compared to the cost of converting each of the units to natural gas.
"Ultimately, all of these options are going to increase costs to our customers," Harvey said. "What we wanted to do was look at what made the most sense from a cost and a risk perspective. We want to minimize those future costs to our customers while continuing to provide reliable, responsible electricity."
Significant capital expenditures for plant upgrades, conversion or replacement are subject to regulatory commission approval.
All of the coal plants in which Idaho Power is a partner meet or exceed existing state and federal environmental standards.
"Our company has always been committed to good stewardship and balancing our obligations to provide responsible electricity at a fair price," Harvey said.
Idaho Power already has some of the lowest overall emissions of any utility in the country. Among the nation’s 100 largest energy producers, Idaho Power ranks in the 37 lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters per megawatt-hour produced, as of 2010.
In 2009, the company voluntarily committed to reducing CO2 emission intensity levels by 10-15 percent below 2005 levels through 2013. Idaho Power is on track to exceed that mark, and the company recently extended the goal through 2015.
Copies of the study and other materials related to Idaho Power's resource planning process are available at www.idahopower.com/irp.
About Idaho Power Company:
Idaho Power began operations in 1916. Today, the electric utility employs approximately 2,000 people who serve more than 500,000 customers throughout a 24,000-square-mile area in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. With 17 low-cost hydroelectric projects as the core of its generation portfolio, Idaho Power’s residential, business and agricultural customers pay among the nation’s lowest rates for electricity. IDACORP, Inc. (NYSE: IDA) is the investor-owned utility’s parent company based in Boise, Idaho. To learn more, visit www.idahopower.com or www.idacorpinc.com.
Contact: Brad Bowlin
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