South Lincoln Econ. Development hosts inaugural business summit

COURTESY PHOTO

Chad Teply, Senior Vice President of Business Policy and Development at Rocky Mountain Power, delivers the keynote address.

The South Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation hosted its first business summit on October 16 at the Best Western Fossil Country Inn & Suites. Industry representatives included Westmoreland-Kemmerer, Rocky Mountain Power, Cowboy State Trucking, ExxonMobil, First Bank, and AllWest Communications, as well as numerous governmental agencies.

The keynote speaker was Chad Teply, Senior Vice President of Business Policy and Development at Rocky Mountain Power.

Teply discussed the future of Rocky Mountain Power’s presence in south Lincoln County and Wyoming, particularly its operation of the Naughton Power Plant, PacifiCorp’s investment in EnergyVision 2020, which is designed to upgrade the existing wind fleet, add 1,150 megawatts of new wind resources by the end of 2020, and build a new 140-mile Gateway West transmission line to enable future wind energy generation.

“One of the things we realized was that while there are great wind generation opportunities in Wyoming, especially in the Medicine Bow area, one of the biggest challenges we have is transmission,” Teply said.

The Gateway West transmission line will enable Rocky Mountain Power not only to deliver that power from Medicine Bow, but open up additional production sites across Wyoming.

Using federal production tax credits helps finance these types of projects and keeps the cost to consumers minimal.

“It’s like saying the local store is having a 60 percent off sale on wind products,” Teply added.

Teply fielded numerous questions from the audience related to the local economy. Rob Piippo, General Manager at the Westmoreland Mine, noted that wind energy is currently only competitive because of federal subsidies and asked if Rocky Mountain Power would continue investing in green energy sources once federal production tax credits expired.

“What we are seeing is that demand for green energy is high, and even when those credits expire, we expect wind to still be competitive,” Teply said. “We project a fairly close equilibrium in the power generation market when it comes to energy sources.”

Discussion also turned to the Naughton Power Plant.

“The Federal Register allows for five years to pass before a conversion was required. It came out on January 30, 2014, so the very latest we can operate Unit 3 is January 30, 2019,” said Rodger Holt, the Naughton Plant Manager. “We’ve pushed it back as far as we can.”

Holt also said that workforce changes should be minimal when Unit 3 shuts down. “Over the past fewyears, we’ve shed about 30 of the jobs at the plant, so when we close it, it should have very little impact on employment other than less overtime for people who have been picking up slack as other employees have left the company.”

Teply added that while Unit 3 will be shut down as a coal-fired unit, the opportunity still remains for a future conversion to gas. He also reiterated that units 1 and 2 are still coal serviceable for quite some time.

Teply also briefly touched on the Gateway West Transmission line near Cokeville.

“We’re still working on environmental clearances for the Cokeville segment. But we did get a letter from the Commissioners regarding the alignment, which we have heard loud and clear. We will definitely take that into consideration as we move forward,” said Teply said.