Rocky Mountain Power releases its Integrated Resource Plan to meet the power needs of its Utah customers through 2040

With the release of Rocky Mountain Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, climate experts consider the missed opportunities of ignoring the obvious

Today, Rocky Mountain Power released its Integrated Resource Plan (energy plan) outlining how it plans to meet the power needs of its Utah customers through 2040. The primary takeaway is a promising one: a 74% reduction in emissions by 2030 from their 2005 baseline.  This is without question an important step in the right direction, but is it enough?

Utah’s ongoing mega-drought and smoke-filled air from wildfires caused by climate change are taking an excruciating toll on our lives, and without bold and rapid action to reduce emissions, it will only get worse. The good news is that we know what we need to do. The latest analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear – to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must reduce emissions from the power sector at least 80% by 2030 and be net-zero by 2035. It’s an attainable goal, but Rocky Mountain Power’s plan falls short.

On the upside, the plan shows progress in reducing emissions. Rocky Mountain Power will continue moving forward with its substantial investments in renewable energy resources from the 2019 energy plan, including 1,302 MW of solar and 1,792 MW of wind, along with 697 MW of battery storage. These resources are scheduled to come online by the end of 2024. The 2021 energy plan calls for an additional 837 MW of wind, and a total of 600 MW of solar paired with storage, all of which should come online by the end of 2026. All in all, the 2021 energy plan will add another 1,437 MW of clean energy resources to PacifiCorp’s six-state system. In addition, there are commitments to increase investments in “demand response” resources that make the grid more flexible, resilient, and help integrate more renewable energy resources going forward. All good news, and for these things we applaud Rocky Mountain Power.  However, it simply doesn’t go far enough fast enough.

The goal of Rocky Mountain Power’s energy plan is to provide the “least-cost, least-risk” energy resources for its customers. Essentially looking at what’s affordable, what’s reliable, and what’s available.  It’s a relatively logical model, at least it was before climate change.

Rocky Mountain Power’s preferred portfolio does not holistically consider the widespread costs and impacts of climate change. Extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding exacerbated by climate change are ravaging our communities and will also have major impacts on our energy supplies. Washington State ordered Rocky Mountain Power to study these and other relevant effects in their resource planning process. Unfortunately, that analysis was not factored into the final energy plan. By ignoring the risks and costs of climate change when picking energy resources, our utilities are planning for a future without the effects of climate change and putting their customers on the hook for the costs of these climate consequences. 

“Decarbonizing our electricity sector is in our best interest. It means new jobs, cleaner air, a more stable climate, and reliable, resilient energy,” states Hunter Holman, Utah Clean Energy’s staff attorney.  “Utah is poised to be a leader in climate solutions, and while this energy plan includes some positive steps, it is nonetheless a missed opportunity to utilize all of our clean energy opportunities.”

It’s time to factor in climate risks and costs into our energy planning.  Doing so will result in a faster transition to renewable energy, storage, and energy efficiency, which are our best bet to mitigate climate change, making them the obvious “least-cost, least-risk” resources for all of us and for the children that follow in our footsteps who bear the brunt of decisions made today.