Region won’t face power shortage when coal-fired power plants close if current plans are followed, Council reports

In just seven years, one of the two coal-fired power plants in the Northwest and one unit at the other will shut down, reducing the region’s power supply by an amount equal to about twice the power demand of Seattle. But there’s nothing to worry about as long as current plans to add replacement generation and to continue improving energy-use efficiency are realized, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council reported today.

“Our analysis emphasizes the importance of carrying out the plans electric utilities already have to deal with the decline of coal-fired electricity in the Northwest,” Council Chair Bill Bradbury said.

Portland General Electric plans to shut down its Boardman, Oregon, plant in 2020 and TransAlta, a Canadian company that owns the two coal-fired units at Centralia, Washington, plans to shutter one of them in 2020 and the other in 2025.

The Council’s analysis of the effect of closing the coal-fired plants follows a similar analysis that the Council and the Bonneville Power Administration conducted last fall with the Northwest Resource Adequacy Forum, a committee of electricity experts including utility planners, state utility commission staff and other interested parties. That analysis, which assessed regional power supply adequacy five years into the future, showed that the power system would remain adequate through 2017 as long as the electricity supply increases by an amount equal to the output of a medium-size, natural gas-fired power plant, or by an equivalent amount of improved energy efficiency.

But what about four years later, after most of the coal-fired generation goes away, the Council wondered? The combined loss from those plants in 2021 is three times as large -- about 1,330 megawatts, but the current analysis identified more than 3,000 megawatts of resources planned for construction or implementation by 2020 -- more than enough to cover the output of the coal plants.

“Of course, the future is uncertain and plans can change, as can demand for electricity,” Bradbury said. “But based on the best information we have at the moment, the risk of power outages caused by inadequate supply is acceptably low as long as current plans are fulfilled.”

John Harrison, 503-222-5161
Bill Bradbury, Chair, 503-222-5171