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Idaho Power gives up on coal-fired plant

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Boise utility "determined that coal-fired generation is not the best technology to meet its resource needs in 2013." The company had planned to get an additional 250 megawatts from coal by then. Instead, it now aims to develop a new natural gas turbine somewhere in southern Idaho by 2012, to augment plans to add 101 megawatts of wind generation in December 2008 and 45.5 megawatts of geothermal generation in phases between 2007 and 2011. ..."The realities are, you still need a resource to back up nondispatchable resources like wind," he said. "As we look at it right now, the best immediate technology for today is a combined-cycle natural-gas power plant."

Utility says it will develop a natural gas turbine in S. Idaho by 2012 and add wind and geothermal megawatts as well.

Idaho Power Co. is the latest utility to temper its enthusiasm for new coal plants, telling federal stock market regulators that escalating costs, permit issues and greenhouse-gas-emission concerns led it to abandon plans to build enough coal-fired electricity generation by 2013 to light 187,500 more homes.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Boise utility "determined that coal-fired generation is not the best technology to meet its resource needs in 2013." The company had planned to get an additional 250 megawatts from coal by then.

Instead, it now aims to develop a new natural gas turbine somewhere in southern Idaho by 2012, to augment plans to add 101 megawatts of wind generation in December 2008 and 45.5 megawatts of geothermal generation in phases between 2007 and 2011. One megawatt can light about 750 homes.

Across the nation, utilities have been making similar decisions, with at least 16 coal-fired power plant proposals getting scrapped in recent months and more than three dozen delayed as power companies face increasing pressure due to concerns... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Utility says it will develop a natural gas turbine in S. Idaho by 2012 and add wind and geothermal megawatts as well.

Idaho Power Co. is the latest utility to temper its enthusiasm for new coal plants, telling federal stock market regulators that escalating costs, permit issues and greenhouse-gas-emission concerns led it to abandon plans to build enough coal-fired electricity generation by 2013 to light 187,500 more homes.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Boise utility "determined that coal-fired generation is not the best technology to meet its resource needs in 2013." The company had planned to get an additional 250 megawatts from coal by then.

Instead, it now aims to develop a new natural gas turbine somewhere in southern Idaho by 2012, to augment plans to add 101 megawatts of wind generation in December 2008 and 45.5 megawatts of geothermal generation in phases between 2007 and 2011. One megawatt can light about 750 homes.

Across the nation, utilities have been making similar decisions, with at least 16 coal-fired power plant proposals getting scrapped in recent months and more than three dozen delayed as power companies face increasing pressure due to concerns over global warming and rising construction costs.

"We're really de-emphasizing our plan to build a large-scale coal plant," said Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez.

Now, the utility is scrutinizing areas where its proposed new natural-gas plant could be built to add to its base electricity supply, for which demand is rising at a rate of 40 megawatts annually. Since winds don't blow all the time, wind turbines alone can't meet the increasing demand, Lopez said.

"The realities are, you still need a resource to back up nondispatchable resources like wind," he said. "As we look at it right now, the best immediate technology for today is a combined-cycle natural-gas power plant."

An environmental group praised Idaho Power's decision, saying it's a sign the utility is listening to those among its 450,000 customers who are demanding it focus on forms of energy that contribute less to global climate change.

"Like most utilities, Idaho Power realizes traditional coal plants are energy dinosaurs that pose enormous health and environmental risks to the public and financial risks to the utility and its shareholders," said Ken Miller, a clean-energy advocate for the Boise-based Snake River Alliance.

Idaho Power's business has been hurt by what some see as the consequences of a warming climate. In the most recent quarter, its profit shrank 34 percent as a drought forced the hydroelectric utility to buy power from other utilities.

Across the country, the U.S. Department of Energy's latest tally of pending coal plants shows eight projects totaling 7,000 megawatts were canceled since May. That's in addition to the cancellation earlier this year of eight plants in Texas totaling 6,864 megawatts. Utilities have also pushed back construction of another 32,000 megawatts worth of projects, according to the Energy Department report that doesn't include Idaho Power's latest decision.

Still, that doesn't mean building coal-fired plants is at a standstill.

In America, about 150 new coal-fired electrical plants are proposed over the next decade. In Nevada, Sierra Pacific Resources, Sithe Global Power and LS Power Associates are now in discussions with state environmental regulators over the level of greenhouse gas emissions that will be allowed from any new such power plants.

Idaho Power is continuing to evaluate coal-fired resource opportunities, including expansion of its jointly owned coal-fired Jim Bridger plant in neighboring Wyoming, clean-coal technologies and buying more power from others, according to the Oct. 31 SEC filing.

In its most recent 20-year energy plan, the utility aims to add 250 megawatts of power from as-yet unidentified clean-coal technologies by 2017. One possibility would be a facility similar to Tampa Electric Co.'s Polk Power Station in Florida, a 250-megawatt gasification plant running since 1997 but which has required hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies.

"Coal is our most abundant resource. We're going to continue to explore the ways to utilize the West's abundant coal supplies in an environmentally responsible manner," Lopez said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Mont., contributed to this report.


Source: http://www.idahostatesman.c...

NOV 7 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/11799-idaho-power-gives-up-on-coal-fired-plant
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