Pacific Power President Pat Reiten on Energy Challenges

The Council interviewed Pat Reiten, president of Pacific Power at PacifiCorp for the upcoming Council Quarterly. Here are some highlights:

Q: PacifiCorp has worked to include renewable energy into its resource portfolio, most of it wind. What renewables will the company be focusing on in the future? What are the principal issues with developing them?

Reiten: We've been more active than any other utility in the region, and in the nation, in adding new renewable resources. Since 2006, we've invested more than $2 billion in wind facilities in the West, all added within the last four years. The challenges of developing renewable power are finding appropriate, cost-effective sites and developing transmission to bring the power to the grid. And variable wind power also needs equivalent backup power to be available when the wind isn't blowing. As a result, in the last four years we've added two natural gas plants...More will need to come as we look to meet load while integrating additional renewables.

Beyond wind, the company has a geothermal plant in Utah and has bestowed grants to dozens of small-scale, community-based solar projects--primarily through our Blue Sky renewable energy program...We have more than 1,000 customers in Oregon using solar energy through net metering agreements. We have dozens of customers using Oregon's solar incentive tariff to build their own solar generation. We recently put out a request for proposal for a utility-scale solar project. More solar and much more distributed generation is in our future, and that's a good thing.

Q: How do you view utility development of energy efficiency as a resource?

Reiten: We strongly support energy efficiency efforts throughout our service territory...As a utility, we look at these tools in three basic ways: Energy efficiency allows our customers to manage their uses and costs, and that is increasingly important given the state of the economy...efficiency measures are critical components of our Integrated Resource Plan, which is the long-range tool we use to determine how we will produce and deliver energy. If we can reduce the need for new capital deployment and dampen the overall growth curve of new energy generation, that helps us and helps our customers. Energy efficiency also reduces overall emissions and assists in reducing environmental impacts, both for our customers and for us as a utility.

Q: Reducing our reliance on coal plants will become increasingly important if we're to meet carbon reduction goals. PacifiCorp is long on coal plants. What is the company's strategy for reducing carbon production? How does energy efficiency fit into those plans?

Reiten: We've been investing for several years in emissions reduction technology, both in accord with, and in some cases, exceeding, state and federal emissions reduction requirements. Over the last three years, we've stopped adding coal resources to our generation mix. New coal plants are completely out of our plans, and we are currently evaluating existing plants in terms of their future cost-effectiveness. We see the next round of generation build to be a combination of new natural gas, wind, and transmission projects. Carbon reduction will also entail additional investment in energy efficiency, as well as distributed generation and the scaled growth of geothermal, solar, and biomass technology.