Study urges PacifiCorp to consider renewables instead of costly coal
Oct 10, 2014 - US power utility firm PacifiCorp can lower the electricity costs for its consumers by betting on the abundant renewable energy resource in its service areas instead of putting billions of dollars into coal-fired power projects, a new report says.
In 2012 PacifiCorp, which serves Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, relied on coal for 77% of its energy. The study, commissioned by environmental organisation the Sierra Club, says that the solar resource technical potential in Wyoming alone, is equal to about 100 times PacifiCorp’s entire six-state consumption. Oregon’s offshore wind potential, on the other hand, is almost 20 times larger.
Instead of embracing these opportunities however, the company, a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE:BRK.A), is now planning to pour billions to upgrade its ageing coal power plants fleet. The Sierra Club warns that its over-reliance on coal could “raise its customers’ electricity rates and cost investors money.”
The study "Risks and Opportunities for PacifiCorp in a Carbon Constrained Economy" cites Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) data showing the average power purchase contract price for US wind farms has fallen to USD 26.00/MWh (EUR 20.5/MWh) in 2013 from a high of USD 68.00/MWh in 2009. Utility-scale solar prices, on the other hand, have contracted by 67% to a bit over USD 50.00/MWh in 2013 and 2014. In contrast, the US Energy Information Administration’s most recently projected costs for new “conventional” coal coming on-line in 2019 range from USD 87.00 to USD 114.00 per MWh. For the most efficient natural gas plants they stand at USD 60.00-74.00 per MWh.