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Wyo. governor supports regulatory analysis of PacifiCorp resource plan

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Dec. 19 said he will ensure that the Wyoming Public Service Commission has the funding it needs to properly analyze the data sources and modeling tools that PacifiCorp, doing business as Rocky Mountain Power, used to draw up its latest integrated resource plan.

The state regulator initiated an investigation on Nov. 13 to examine the integrated resource plan filed in October by PacifiCorp. That plan details an accelerated shift away from coal — a bedrock staple of Wyoming's economy — in favor of renewables.

Under the plan, several coal-fired generation units across the state would stop operating years before the end of their established depreciable life — in some cases, nearly a decade and a half before. According to the regulatory order starting the investigation, the generators subject to early retirement potentially would include two units of the Jim Bridger coal-fired plant in Sweetwater County, Wyo. That plant would close its 608-MW Unit 1 in 2023, or 14 years early, and its 617-MW Unit 2 in 2028, or nine years before the end of that unit's projected lifespan. Also included in the list are the 192-MW Unit 1 and 256-MW Unit 2 of the Naughton coal-fired plant in Lincoln County, Wyo., both of which would retire by 2025, or four years early.

To replace the lost capacity, PacifiCorp would add 1,821 MW of solar generation and 1,989 MW of wind generation by the end of 2023. The utility also would add 595 MW of battery storage capacity.

"Because the [integrated resource plan] filed by Rocky Mountain Power will significantly impact the state of Wyoming and her workers, it is critical that we have a full understanding of how the company reached its conclusions, and whether the analysis that was conducted was correct, thorough and unbiased," the governor said in a statement.

Among other objectives, the PSC said it wants to analyze the utility's calculation that changes to its preferred portfolio would result in $111 million in customer benefits as well as carbon dioxide emissions reductions.

After Pacificorp released a study in April finding that early coal-fired unit retirements would result in ratepayer savings, the governor lamented that such a move would mean "we drift further away from finding solutions for reducing carbon emissions at all coal-fired power plants, those plants in Wyoming and across the globe."

The Wyoming utility regulator has scheduled a public hearing on the data supporting the integrated resource plan for May 5-6, 2020. According to the release, the commission will hire "experienced individuals or entities to provide intensive expert analysis of the data and modeling assumptions" used in the filing via a request for proposals.