New Resource Plan Increases Reliance on coal and natural gas
Portland, OR: Friday, Portland General Electric (PGE) announced its plan to increase reliance on coal by increasing Oregon’s share of the power generated by the Boardman coal plant and further increasing carbon liabilities with the addition of a new 406 MW natural gas plant.
PGE is currently engaged in Integrated Resource Planning, which is a process for the utility to evaluate different options for meeting future and current electricity demands and to select a mix of resources that reflects a reliable low-cost plan.
The business-as-usual plan fails to take into account the growing fiscal liability of coal power. For example, PGE is now required to invest over $600 million into the Boardman coal plant for long overdue pollution controls. It is likely that the federal government will introduce carbon pricing soon. Despite these price impacts, PGE has chosen to increase Portland’s dependence on dirty energy.
During a record-breaking heat wave in Oregon last week, PGE’s Boardman coal-fired power plant was not available due to unexpected delays in getting the plant back online after a scheduled maintenance. Boardman’s unreliability during the heat wave underscores the imprudence of PGE’s announcement on Friday that it will pursue an action plan that will increase reliance on PGE Boardman until at least 2040.
“It certainly is ironic that on the very day PGE unveiled their proposal to extend Boardman by decades, during the hottest weather on record, the plant wasn’t available to meet our needs,” stated Fred Heutte, Energy Chair for the Oregon Sierra Club. “This is a sign that PGE needs a better plan. It’s time to phase out Boardman and turn to efficiency and renewable energy to clean up our air, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the lights on.”
In the 15 scenarios that PGE seriously considered, a plan to shut-down Boardman by 2014 was dismissed because PGE failed to adequately assess all the alternatives to Boardman. Instead, PGE only looked at a scenario where two natural gas plants replaced the power. PGE failed to consider an option that would replace Boardman with energy efficiency and renewables with decreased dependence on natural gas.
Furthermore, PGE rejected another option that would reduce PGE’s carbon emissions significantly compared to its chosen plan. PGE has often expressed a commitment to a new, clean energy future, but when faced with two options that have roughly the same costs and risks, PGE has chosen the portfolio with a significantly higher carbon output. Surprisingly, at a time when the public is calling on PGE to reduce its dependence on dirty coal, PGE’s chosen plan actually increases the amount of power PGE will provide from the Boardman coal-fired plant.
“Continuing coal-generated power is an irresponsible, costly path,” said Robin Everett, organizer with the Sierra Club. “Oregon communities are investing heavily in solutions to the climate crisis, but every year the Boardman coal plant emits 5 million tons of carbon pollution into the air. It affects our health and clean water, and will have long-term economic liabilities. We deserve better.”
PGE will release their draft Integrated Resource Plan in late August, and the Public Utilities Commission will review it and ultimately decide, after a public input process, whether to accept their plan early in 2010.
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