Today clean energy advocates convened at the Public Service Commission (PSC) to spotlight how Rocky Mountain Power continues to slow its transition to clean energy at the expense of its customers and Utah taxpayers.
In May, Rocky Mountain Power submitted its biennial Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that foreshadows where the utility plans to get power for the next twenty years. As it stands, the plan falls short of taking advantage of the new federal funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act, while intending to convert six of its coal-fired power units to climate warming methane-gas, a fuel that will continue to exacerbate the climate crisis on customer and taxpayers’ dime with extreme price volatility.
The plan also introduces nuclear energy as a hero solution when it hasn’t been proven to be built on time, or within budget to actually achieve emissions reduction as has been demonstrated in states like South Carolina and Georgia. Moving forward with nuclear energy also ignores the toxic legacy of uranium mining across the Colorado Plateau that perpetuates deep harm in Indigenous and rural communities.
Most Recently, Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company, PacifiCorp, suspended its 2022 All Source Request for Proposals (RFP) that’s meant to build out the energy infrastructure outlined in the 2021 IRP, putting clean energy objectives that were planned for at risk. This pause could impact fossil plant operation levels or retirements, emission trajectories, and could prolong coal dependency, or facilitate more gas conversions – keeping customers on the hook for bad business decisions when it could be taking advantage of federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to update Utah’s energy grid.
Rocky Mountain Power cites multiple reasons for its RFP suspension, including ongoing litigation regarding wildfire risk and liability since its multi-billion dollar parent company, PacifiCorp, was found guilty in June for causing Oregon’s 2022 Labor Day wildfires that immensely damaged communities, with some victims losing their lives and their homes. Despite evidence showing the company knew it played a role in starting the fires, it’s now seeking to raise Oregon customers rates to cover the 90 million it owes in damages, demonstrating that the utility shifts cost burden to customers instead of taking accountability. The Oregon lawsuit could also raise rates for Utah customers as PacifiCorp looks to shift the potential cost burden across its service territories.
“We’re witnessing from Rocky Mountain Power a dangerous trend,” said Monica Hilding Volunteer with Sierra Club’s Utah Needs Clean Energy (UNCE) group, “demonstrating that it’s only interested in protecting its own bottom line, at the expense of its customers and taxpayers. That’s why it’s important for the PSC to keep Rocky Mountain Power in check, and to ensure that the utility is responsibly planning for the direction our country is moving toward in the transition from fossil-powered energy. Until then, utility customers will pay for this, as well as any other Utahn who breathes."