Idaho Power has unveiled its newest integrated resource plan and, as expected, it calls for a phased curtailment of the utility’s operation of a Nevada coal plant and other coal-fired resources as it transitions to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.
Idaho Power filed its plan and other accompanying petitions with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission last week. It also made a similar filing with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon. It produces the plan every two years; the last was produced in 2017.
Idaho Power jointly owns the North Valmy coal-fired power plant in northern Nevada with NV Energy. Idaho Power has scheduled to close its involvement in the plant’s Unit 1 in 2019 and Unit 2 in 2025. NV Energy plans to exit the plant on a similar timeline; exiting Unit 1 in 2021 and Unit 2 in 2025. The plant stays idle for many months of the year but provides energy during peak times in the summer months, according to testimony from the Idaho Conservation League and the Sierra Club filed with the Idaho PUC in 2018.
Idaho Power announced earlier this year that it plans to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. That plan had several major components, including completely cutting coal and natural gas from its portfolio over the next 25 years and relying on carbon-free energy sources like hydropower, wind energy and solar.
To accomplish that, Idaho Power proposed a series of steps that included purchasing up to 120 megawatts of solar energy from a company called Jackpot Holdings, which will build a solar array on land south of Twin Falls. Construction is scheduled to be finished in 2022.
It also plans to seek more renewable generation from investment in wind power and by using clean-energy battery storage projects.
The next part entails cutting its use of coal-fired electric power. Idaho Power owns 3,658 megawatts of generating capacity from hydropower, coal and natural gas sources. It derives almost 50 percent, or 1,773 megawatts, from 17 hydropower projects on the Snake River or tributaries, according to the integrated resource plan.
Idaho Power owns shares of three coal-fired power plants that can provide 1,118 megawatts, or 30.5 percent, of its owned generating capacity. Those plants are the Jim Bridger facility in Wyoming, which offers Idaho Power a capacity of 770 megawatts, the North Valmy plant with 283 megawatts and the Boardman plant in Oregon with 64 megawatts.
Idaho Power also has 762 megawatts of generating capacity from natural gas plants in southwest Idaho.
The utility purchases 1,119 megawatts of capacity from 127 independent developers that generate electricity from wind, solar, hydropower, biomass and other small renewable energy projects. It also relies on the regional energy market and transmission connections to the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah to serve the energy load.
The integrated resource plan examines forecast energy loads through 2038. It predicts that a median monthly energy load will be 1,849 megawatts in 2020, growing to 2,212 megawatts by 2038.
Peak demand is also significant to the plan. The utility recorded its highest peak-hour load in July 2017, at 3,422 megawatts. The plan forecasts that that will increase to 4,388 megawatts by 2038.
So, how does Idaho Power intend to meet those demands while cutting its reliance on five of its seven coal units in the next decade?
The plan identifies a preferred portfolio forecast.
Under that scenario, the utility would leave the North Valmy Unit 1 in 2019 and Unit 2 by 2025. It would exit the Boardman plant by December 2020, one Jim Bridger unit in 2022 and a second in 2026. Idaho Power would exit the last two Jim Bridger units in the 2030s. It plans to exit the natural gas plants by 2045.
The plan identifies key actions that would help the transition to clean energy. One is completion of the Boardman-Hemingway transmission line.
The project is intended to come online in 2026 and connect Idaho Power to the broader electric market in the Pacific Northwest, including low-cost clean energy. It would be a 500-kilovolt, 300-mile-long line from a station near Boardman, Ore., that would connect to the Hemingway substation in southwest Idaho. It would provide Idaho Power 500 megawatts in the spring and summer, and 200 megawatts in the fall and winter.
Idaho Power intends to pursue generation of 220 megawatts of solar energy, including the 120-megawatt Jackpot Solar facility by 2022 and 100 megawatts of solar energy from Franklin Solar by 2023. By 2038, another 125 megawatts of solar are planned. Battery storage and energy efficiency should provide an additional 110 megawatts of capacity.
“From a regional perspective, the [Boardman-Hemingway] transmission line, and high-voltage transmission in general, is a critical part to the achievement of clean energy objectives,” the plan states. “The cost competitiveness of PV solar is another notable theme. Guidance from the 2019 [plan] indicates favorable economics associated with Idaho Power’s exit from five of seven coal-fired generating units by the end of 2026.”