Western Resource Advocates today welcomed a PacifiCorp filing to delay consideration of whether Utah should take on additional coal costs. That delay provides time for the state to fully evaluate the adverse consequences of adding more coal-fired capacity to its energy future.
The utility filed the request today with the Utah Public Service Commission. PacifiCorp previously had planned to ask the commission to consider coal reassignment issues in February 2021 and now is seeking to postpone that filing until February 2022.
“Utah will need to make important decisions regarding the costs and risks of paying for additional coal, and this requested delay by PacifiCorp allows time for the utility and the state to fully consider the economic and environmental costs of adding more coal generation to Utah’s energy mix,” said Sophie Hayes, Western Resource Advocates’ senior staff attorney in Salt Lake City. “This is a moment of opportunity for Utahns to transition toward clean energy and reduce the emissions that drive climate change – an outcome most Utahns want. The delay provides Utah regulators time to carefully consider whether the state should take on the costs and risks of additional coal-fired power. Coal-fired generation today is among the most costly and environmentally harmful forms of electricity production. It makes little sense for Utah to acquire additional coal-fired power costs.”
PacifiCorp serves customer in six Western states, including Utah. Recent laws passed in Oregon and Washington require coal-fired power generation to be removed from rates in those states. Consequently, in December 2019, stakeholders in Utah and the five other states that PacifiCorp serves signed a multi-state agreement to resolve some of the issues associated with how the utility’s coal plant costs will be allocated in the years ahead. The regulatory commissions in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming approved the multi-state agreement last spring, opening a process for those states to make important decisions.
The utility regulatory commissions in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming next will need to decide whether to acquire the coal resources being left by Oregon and Washington. Utah accounts for the largest share of PacifiCorp’s load, at roughly 45 percent.
A recent statewide poll found that a strong majority of likely Utah voters — 59% to 18%— believe that a transition away from coal-fired power to renewable energy use in Utah is important for improving life for their families and for future generations.