Last week’s announcement that PGE has proposed to close its coal-fired power plant at Boardman by 2020 came as a surprise. Just two months ago, PGE proposed spending more than $500 million to bring the plant into emmissions compliance, and then to keep it running until 2040 (here’s their full Integrated Resource Plan (pdf)). But concerns about the future cost of carbon have changed the calculus. PGE’s president and CEO Jim Piro layed out the company’s thinking in a statement:
Right now state regulations give us very few options — either shut the plant prematurely at a tremendous cost to customers or install very expensive new controls despite uncertainty about future carbon regulation and technological developments. We think an alternative plan could reduce cost and risk for our customers while giving us time to develop replacement resources or convert to a different fuel, but we’ll need changes in state rules and help from our stakeholders to accomplish that.
There are many details still to come, like how much this is likely to cost ratepayers (and what “help” from stakeholders will mean in practice). And there are big questions about how PGE will pick up the slack for Boardman’s 500+ megawatts — enough electricity to power 280,000 homes, or 15 percent of their customers.
Environmental groups that have long pushed for Boardman to be boarded up are encouraged that they’re getting what they want, but are adamant that 10 years is still too long to wait; they say it should be done in four years.
What do you make of PGE’s announcement? If you’re a PGE customer, would you be willing to pay more if it means less coal will be burned in Oregon? And what would you like to see as coal’s replacement?
- Dave Robertson: Vice president of public policy for Portland General Electric
- Bruce Nilles: Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign
- Bob Jenks: Executive director of the Citizen’s Utility Board of Oregon
- Ali Nourai: Chairman of the board of directors of Electricity Storage Association and manager of the energy storage program at American Electric Power