January 4, 2021
Two Western Resource Advocates attorneys today noted that Xcel Energy, PacifiCorp, and Salt River Project could achieve greater carbon emission reductions and ratepayer benefits across Colorado, Utah, and Arizona by considering an even earlier retirement date for the Hayden Generating Station in Colorado than the 2027-28 date announced today by Xcel.
“Moving away from coal and toward cleaner sources of electricity is not just good for the climate, it actually saves customers money, since legacy coal assets are significantly higher cost than cleaner alternatives. Ceasing operation of the Hayden coal plant before 2027-28 could bring even greater economic and environmental benefits for the West. Accelerated retirement dates and other tools and should be considered as part of Xcel’s forthcoming electric resource planning process before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission,” said Erin Overturf, deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “Colorado has a goal to reduce climate pollution 26% by 2025, and currently we’re not on track to achieve this science-based goal. Further reducing our reliance on coal between now and 2025 will be critical to the state’s ability to achieve its 2025 greenhouse gas reduction goal. We look forward to considering Xcel’s proposal in the electric resource planning process, as well as evaluating alternatives that may further reduce emissions and lower costs for customers while still supporting the existing work force.”
The Hayden coal plant, located in northwestern Colorado, emitted 3 million short tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, the last full year for which data are available. Xcel today announced plans to retire Hayden Unit 2 by the end of 2027 and Unit 1 in 2028. The prior anticipated retirement dates for those units were 2036 and 2030, respectively. Xcel is expected to file its electric resource plan (ERP) with the Colorado commission in March.
Xcel owns about 75% of the 179-megawatt Unit 1 and 37.5% of 262-megawatt Unit 2. Salt River Project owns 50% of Unit 2, and Pacific Corp owns 25% of Unit 1 and 13% of Unit 2. Xcel said today that it did not anticipate any layoffs of the 75 workers at the plant and would manage the transition through attrition, retirement, and retraining.
PacifiCorp’s 2019 integrated resource plan (IRP) analysis indicated that Hayden was one of the utility’s most expensive units to run in its six-state system. PacifiCorp serves customers 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.
Utility regulatory commissions in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming 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.
“PacifiCorp is currently evaluating the economics of earlier retirements of all of its coal-fired power units, and we expect that closing the Hayden Generating Station at an earlier date will save ratepayers money, since that plant is one of the most expensive to operate in PacifiCorp’s six-state system,” said Sophie Hayes, Western Resource Advocates’ senior staff attorney in Salt Lake City. “Coal-fired power is costly and a primary source of the emissions that drive climate change. Most Utahns want Utah to accelerate a transition to clean energy and believe it would create a better and healthier future.”
A recent statewide poll of Utah voters found that a majority — 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.
Julianne Basinger, 801-406-8664, firstname.lastname@example.org