Commission investigates RMP plan
Hearing scheduled in Rock Springs
November 20, 2019
The Wyoming Public Service Commission recently launched an investigation into Rocky Mountain Power’s Integrated Resource Plan.
The plan’s preferred portfolio, filed with the commission Oct. 18, includes changes the company anticipates making with coal-fire power plants in Sweetwater and Lincoln counties. The plan outlines the early retirement of two units at the Jim Bridger Power Plant near Point of Rocks, one of which would occur as early as 2023. The plan also highlights a desire to replace the generation capacity lost at Jim Bridger with power generated through solar farms. In Kemmerer, the plan calls for retiring two units at RMP’s Naughton Plant and converting its third unit, which was shut down Jan. 31, to natural gas.
An investigation order issued Nov. 13 states the early retirements recommended by the plan may negatively impact RMP’s cost and reliability of service to Wyoming customers and create “significant negative economic impacts.” The order states the impacts should be evaluated to ensure RMP’s plan aligns with public interests. The commission also wants to explore how the plan was established, including the methodologies and development process leading to the recommendation of its preferred portfolio.
Two public hearings are scheduled in early 2020. The first occurs at Kemmerer City Hall Jan. 28 from 4-7 p.m., while the second takes place at Rock Springs City Hall Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A third hearing will take place at the commission’s hearing room in Cheyenne May 5-6.
Speaking to Wyoming Public Media, Chris Petrie, chief counsel for the service commission, said he wasn’t aware of previous instances of the agency investigating an IRP. He said the commission usually publishes notice of an IRP, solicits public comments, studies the plan, then hosts a public meeting.
“They have generally been accepted for filing without any further action. This IRP however is extraordinary in its potential impact,” Petrie told Wyoming Public Media.
Tiffany Erickson, external communications and media relations contact for RMP, said the company looks forward to addressing the questions the commission might have.
“We note that the process with the 2019 IRP included participation from many interested Wyoming residents, including industry groups, elected officials from city, county and state levels, and Wyoming environmental advocates—in addition to customary utility regulators and interveners,” Erickson wrote in an email to the Star.
Erickson said the company engages in an extensive public process, which include meetings which allow residents and officials to ask questions and submit comments as the company works on its final plan. Each plan then receives a shorter update in the intervening year as economic and operating conditions change.
“The goal of the IRP is to produce a least-cost, least-risk portfolio of resources to provide safe, reliable electric service to all of our customers,” she said.
Wally Johnson, chairman of the Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners, said he’s pleased with the public service commission’s decision to investigate.
He was unable to comment further because he didn’t know the specifics of the investigation.