City council to submit comment on latest PacifiCorp resource plan

COURTESY PHOTO / PacifiCorp

PacifiCorp Naughton power plant

At the Kemmerer city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 14, the council agreed to submit public comment for PacifiCorp’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.

The Integrated Resource Plan is updated every two years, although Rocky Mountain Power / PacifiCorp conducts energy resource management studies every year.

PacifiCorp owns and operates the Naughton power plant that burns coal from the Kemmerer Westmoreland mine, and also owns the Viva Naughton Dam.

A PacifiCorp study, presented at a public input meeting in December, revealed that 13 of its 22 coal units (including Naughton) are more expensive to operate than to shut down or replace with clean energy alternatives.

“This set of analysis will inform PacifiCorp’s long-term resource decisions, but it does not on its own determine how long specific coal units will stay in service,” PacifiCorp stated in the study, which acknowledges that coal is not becoming more expensive, but renewable energy plans are becoming cheaper for the company and potentially for consumers.

On Monday, council members discussed questions they had about the impacts of potentially closing PacifiCorp’s coal-fired power plants and the company’s ability to maintain the same level of energy to providers. The council agreed to submit these questions on PacifiCorp’s website.

“If (PacifiCorp) shuts down coal fired power plants, can they keep the grid up?” asked Kemmerer Mayor Tony Tomassi. “Where will they get the power? We as the city of Kemmerer should say that we want our power generated with coal. That’s a statement that I think we as a city need to make.”

Tomassi also said that council representatives would attend a Rocky Mountain Power meeting in Salt Lake City later this month. That meeting will feature additional coal studies and a recap of public comment submitted on the Integrated Resource Plan.

Tomassi said that all Rocky Mountain Power stakeholders should have been invited to previous meetings about the Integrated Resource Plan, but the city, county and state were not invited.

New councilman Mark Quinn raised several questions about the IRP’s discussion on renewable energy resources.

“Does the IRP factor in the subsidies that are currently included with renewable energy?” Quinn asked. “If the subsidies go away, what will that mean for consumers’ energy bills?”

Quinn also stated that shutting down coal-fired power plants would mean relying on renewable energy storage technology that is still not fully developed.

New councilman Vance Chamberlain had a question about the plan’s focus on adopting more renewable energy resources.

“How much of that (renewable energy) development will be in Wyoming?” Chamberlain asked. “Coal and the power plant mean everything to the city of Kemmerer and the state of Wyoming.”

“Kemmerer is probably one of the smallest communities that will be affected by this,” said councilman David McGinnis. “We need to control this and work with the county commissioners and the state to figure out what the impact would be.”

Council members David Crosland and Eric Rudy echoed that call for action.

“There are so many moving parts involved with regulations and leadership, that we need to get in line with the county and the state to work with PacifiCorp,” Crosland said.

“We’re going to have to do something,” Rudy said.