End of Utah coal power in sight as Rocky Mountain Power moves to renewables and nuclear

End of Utah Coal Power in Sight as Rocky Mountain Power Moves to Renewables and Nuclear

Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, has recently announced that it will close down its coal-fired power plants in Emery County, Utah by 2032 and replace them with smaller nuclear-powered plants in the same locations. The announcement has been made as part of the utility company’s efforts to comply with the federal Ozone Transfer rule. The company also plans to reduce operations at the two coal plants starting this summer and install technology to remove some of the pollutants. The decision is a part of the parent company’s Integrated Resource Plan, which explains where the company intends to get power across its six-state system for the next 20 years.

Carbon-Free Path for Utah

With the implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan, Utah’s principal provider of electricity is on a carbon-free path. The end of coal power in Utah comes years before the original closure dates for the Huntington (2036) and Hunter (2042) plants. The other two utility-scale coal plants still operating in Utah — the Intermountain Power Plant near Delta and the Bonanza Power Plant near Vernal — are also expected to stop burning coal before 2030.

Within a decade, Utah will have no coal-fired power plants for the first time in more than a century. This move is expected to have a significant impact on business and employment in Emery County, where the coal-fired Huntington Power Plant is located.

A Push for Renewables

The plan includes significantly more wind, solar, and storage capacity. Pacificorp says it will have 20,000 megawatts of wind and solar power by 2032, four times what it has now. It will also have 7,400 megawatts of energy storage by 2029. Storage is seen as a crucial element to moving away from the “baseload” power that fossil fuels provide.

Rick Link, senior vice president for resource planning procurement and optimization at PacifiCorp, said, “First and foremost, we’re going to see unprecedented growth at a faster pace to ramp out procurement of renewables and storage. Incentives in the Inflation Reduction act were particularly instrumental in significantly growing renewables and storage since the last 20-year plan was released in 2021.”

The plan is part of the company’s efforts to keep energy affordable and reliable in Utah. Gregory Todd, director of the Utah Office of Energy Development, said, “We’re glad RMP recognizes those standards as well, and it’s apparent in the newest iteration of its IRP.”

Nuclear-Powered Plants

In addition to the two proposed nuclear plants, PacifiCorp is also investing in other technologies that are capable of generating power with fewer emissions. The company is also working on battery storage and improving grid reliability.

The nuclear plans hinge on the success of the Kemmerer plant, which is expected to receive a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the coming months. If the license is approved, the plant will begin producing electricity in the next decade. The Kemmerer plant is designed to produce 840 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 840,000 homes.

Conclusion

Rocky Mountain Power’s move to renewables and nuclear power will help Utah achieve its goal of a carbon-free future. The company’s plan to replace coal-fired power plants with smaller nuclear plants is a step in the right direction. The plan also includes the expansion of wind, solar, and storage capacity, which is crucial for moving away from fossil fuels. The end of coal power in Utah comes years before the original closure dates for the Huntington and Hunter plants. With the closure of the coal-fired power plants, the state will see an unprecedented growth in renewable energy.