Rocky Mountain Power Considers Early Closure of Coal Units

Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) on April 24 said an updated analysis of its operations suggests the company could lower costs for customers if it accelerates the retirement of four coal-fired units in Wyoming. Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of RMP, which is part of Pacificorp, told state and local officials the company has not made a final decision about the plants.

The units being considered for closure include two at the Jim Bridger Power Plant near Point of Rocks, and two at the Pacificorp Naughton Plant near Kemmerer. Pacificorp ’s Integrated Resource Plan, released at a public input meeting April 25, recommends those units be retired early.

“We don’t know the plan of what we’re going to do,” Hoogeveen told a group of officials representing Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, and the state on Wednesday. Pacificorp on Thursday said the company will submit a plan to handle the possible closures Aug. 1.

Pacificorp’s IRP looked at RMP’s 22 coal-fired units to determine what, if any, savings could be realized by closing units as early as 2022. The report also analyzed the difference between specific coal units and newer resources and energy conservation. The IRP is updated every two years, and looks at how the company’s generation portfolio can best provide access to reliable power for customers over a 20-year period.

Hoogeveen said the latest study shows customers would save about $248 million if the company moved up retirement plans for the four units. He said if a decision is made to close the units early, the first would probably occur in 2022, but the closures would be staggered over perhaps a six-year period. The Jim Bridger units’ original lifespan extends to 2037; the Naughton plant originally was expected to end operations in 2027.

Hoogeveen said the decision to close the units early would be based only on economics. He said regulators require RMP to provide customers with the lowest-cost electricity, and today renewable resources such as wind and solar are cheaper to produce. He said two newer units at the Bridger plant, with upgraded emissions-reduction technology, could operate for many more years. RMP officials have said upgrading emissions controls on the older coal units would not be economical, nor would converting them to burn natural gas.

—Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).