PacifiCorp plans to accelerate shift from coal to renewable energy — @WyoFile #KeepItInTheGround

A substation collects power from the Jim Bridger plant to connect to the electrical grid Jan. 19, 2022. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

Wyoming’s largest utility will either retire or convert #coal-fired units to natural (#methane) gas, sparing only two coal-burning units in the state beyond 2030

Wyoming coal will play a shrinking role in PacifiCorp’s energy supply portfolio as the utility adds more wind and solar power and either retires or converts its coal-fired power units in the state to natural gas.

Only two of the utility’s 11 coal-fired power units currently operating in the state will continue burning coal beyond 2030 — Wyodak near Gillette and Unit 4 at the Dave Johnston plant in Glenrock — according to the utility’s biennial Integrated Resource Plan filed on Friday. Several coal units will be spared from earlier decommissioning plans and instead be converted to natural gas — Jim Bridger units 3 and 4 in 2030 and Naughton units 1 and 2 in 2026. 

Dave Johnston Unit 3 will be retired in 2027, and units 1 and 2 will be retired in 2028 rather than 2027.

All told, PacifiCorp will cut its coal-fired power generation capacity across its six-state operating region by 1,153 megawatts by 2026 and 3,000 megawatts by 2032, and replace it with wind and solar energy, battery storage, nuclear power, wholesale power purchases and energy efficiencies, according to the company, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming.

PacifiCorp plans a major shift from coal to solar, wind, nuclear and battery storage. (PacifiCorp)

“Our Integrated Resource Plan is designed to determine the lowest-cost options for customers, adjusting for risks, future customer needs, system reliability, market projections and changing technology,” said Rick Link, who serves as PacifiCorp senior vice president of resource planning, procurement and optimization.

No carbon capture for coal

One option that doesn’t fit those parameters is retrofitting decades-old coal-fired power units with carbon capture, use and sequestration technologies. PacifiCorp also filed a mandatory report to the Wyoming Public Service Commission Friday to update officials on its call for bidders to possibly install CCUS facilities at its coal units in the state — an action mandated by Wyoming law.

“Through 2042, the [analysis] for all CCUS variants result in higher costs than the preferred portfolio,” PacifiCorp said in its 48-page report. The summary suggests it will cost Wyoming ratepayers “$514 million [to retrofit] Dave Johnston Unit 2, $857 million for Dave Johnston Unit 4, and $1.3 billion for Jim Bridger units 3 and 4.”

Of the 54 companies that PacifiCorp sought bids from, only 21 qualified and only three participated in mandatory site visits, PacifiCorp said. The bidding and analysis also confirmed that adding CCUS to an existing coal-fired power unit drastically reduces a facility’s generation capacity, which would require replacing that lost capacity.

PacifiCorp is still working with vendors to explore the potential for taking on CCUS retrofits, however.

Three of four coal-burning units at PacifiCorp’s Dave Johnston coal-fired power plant near Glenrock will be decommissioned by 2028, according to the utility’s 2023 Integrated Resource Plan. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

“The company has determined that Dave Johnston Unit 4 and Jim Bridger units 3 and 4 remain potentially suitable candidates for CCUS and are being further analyzed under the company’s RFP process approved by the [Wyoming Public Service Commission] in the initial application,” PacifiCorp said in its report.

CCUS retrofits remain a significant cost and power-delivery-reliability risk for Wyoming ratepayers, Powder River Basin Resource Council Chairman David Romtvedt said.

“Ratepayers should not be asked to cover the costs of uneconomical energy projects,” Romtvedt said in a prepared statement. “Instead, we support the addition of cost effective and environmentally responsible renewable energy sources to the company’s overall energy profile.”     

Renewable shift and potential nuclear

PacifiCorp’s updated Integrated Resource Plan, which looks ahead 20 years, includes quadrupling its wind and solar resources to 20,000 megawatts by 2032, backed with an additional 7,400 megawatts of energy storage.

The utility still envisions taking ownership of TerraPower’s Natrium nuclear energy facility at Kemmerer — which is expected to begin operating in 2030 — and possibly taking on two more small modular reactors co-located at coal plants in Utah.

Utility giant PacifiCorp hopes to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (PacifiCorp)

The expansion of renewable and low-carbon electric generation facilities is accompanied by approximately 2,500 miles of new transmission lines, many of which will connect Wyoming renewable sources to PacifiCorp service territories in the West. All told, the power shift and transmission buildout should result “in a system-wide 70% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, an 87% reduction by 2035 and a 100% reduction by 2050,” PacifiCorp reported.

Paramount to those greenhouse gas emission savings is curbing the utility’s reliance on coal.

“Driven in part by ongoing cost pressures on existing coal-fired facilities and dropping costs for new resource alternatives, of the 22 coal units currently serving PacifiCorp customers, the preferred portfolio includes retirement or gas conversion of 13 units by 2030 and 20 units by year-end 2032,” PacifiCorp said.

Though it remains to be seen how PacifiCorp’s shift away from coal and toward a lower-carbon energy portfolio will affect jobs and revenue in the state, the company’s plan acknowledges a larger energy industry shift and opportunities for the state, according to Romtvedt. 

“Greater use of renewable energy will help us to ease the dislocation caused by the transition away from extractive resources while developing a more sustainable energy future that can support stable economies in our communities,” he said.

Deadpool Diaries: In March 2023, the #RioGrande/#ColoradoRiver #snowpack went bonkers — John Fleck (InkStain) #COriver #aridification

An urban river. Arenal Canal in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Photo credit: John Fleck/InkStain

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (John Fleck):

The ditches were flowing across Albuquerque’s valley floor yesterday [April 2, 2023] as I criss-crossed them on a long, aimless bike ride, the first day it really felt like spring. The cycling challenge at this winter<->spring pivot point is clothing – layers for a morning start hovering just above freezing, with a pannier stuffed with the layers by the time I was down to shirtsleeves for my taco brunch.

Embudo Creek

My favorite gage at this time of year is Embudo Creek, just above its confluence with the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico. You can see the diurnal cycle of day-night melting, and the rising as the temperature warms. With the big snowpack, flows right now are well above the median. (Prof. Fleck note: The skewed nature of the data, with flows a lot higher on the high side than the lows on the low side, makes the mean – typically what we mean by “average” – less meaningful for a data like this. Hence median.)

The West Gulf River Forecast Center is forecasting Embudo Creek runoff at more than double the median this year.

The Embudo is just one little creek, but people live on it and built their lives around it. Of such creeks is the entire West built. Good to pay attention to one.


The whole deadpool/wrecked speedboats emerging from the Lake Mead mud thing seems a bit of a quaint echo from a stranded past, as the Colorado River discourse shifts from how to protect the infrastructure from a dark cascade toward deadpool to “Which reservoirs should we refill, and by how much?”

The official CBRFC April 1 forecast hasn’t dropped yet, but the preliminary modeled numbers are up 3.6 million acre feet from March 1.

3.6 million acre feet.

Never forget. Photo credit: John Fleck

That seems like a lot, but it is worth remembering that we’ve been overusing the river by about 1.5 million acre feet per year since the turn of the century.

This likely means a release from Glen Canyon Dam to the Lower Basin of 9 million acre feet (or more?) in 2023, which might be enough to re-submerge some of the wrecked speedboats. That would be nice, but I hope we don’t forget the visceral message they’ve been sending us.

Interior’s draft modeling results should emerge next week (perhaps April 10-11-12?), but the specific near term crisis they were meant to help us through – the possibility of a Glen Canyon Dam release of less than 7 million acre feet this year – is gone.


Instead, the Basin community is wrestling with a “what shall we do with the extra water” question: refilling Flaming Gorge and the other Upper Basin reservoirs drawn down by DROA, erasing “operational neutrality” by solving the confusing mess of the relationship between how much water was held back in Powell to keep the dam from breaking, and how that affects Lower Basin shortage tier accounting. (Don’t ask me hard questions, it’s super confusing.)

In a really important way, the discussion has shifted from short term crisis management to long term, umm, I guess “crisis management” remains the right description? Raise your hand if you disagree.


The Rio Grande, which is getting my most focused thinking right now on account of the new book (see bike ride picture above), is in good shape. Usually at this time of year I shift from watching the snowpack to worrying about dry wind events, but this year there’s so gosh-darned much snow up there that I’m, like, “Meh, whatever, bring it on, spring!”

Otowi runoff via WGRFC – a very good year on the Rio Grande

A lot depends on spring winds now, and the rate of warming and meltoff. But that will just be the difference between a big year and a very big year.

My great hope is for overbank flows in the Middle Rio Grande, like we had in 2019. Those were super fun.