Contributed photo by Michael Durham
Environmentalists cheered a decision Tuesday by the Oregon Public Utility Commission that seemingly torpedoes any plans by Portland General Electric to expand the natural gas-fired Carty Generating Station in Morrow County.
PGE had considered building two new units at Carty to satisfy customer demand after 2020, when the Boardman Coal Plant is scheduled to close. In its most recent integrated resource plan, the utility estimates it will need 561 additional megawatts of capacity to bridge the shortfall and keep up with future growth.
Regulators acknowledged PGE’s need for capacity during a lengthy six-hour meeting in Salem. The PUC did not, however, give the green light to go out for bids to expand at Carty, drawing praise from opponents of fracked natural gas.
“To address the climate crisis, we need to transition rapidly off fossil fuels and increase renewable energy like wind and solar power,” said David Van’t Hof, acting Oregon director for Climate Solutions. “We commend the Public Utility Commission for recognizing that imperative and rejecting new fracked gas development.”
Cathy Sampson-Kruse, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, also petitioned against burning more natural gas at Carty.
“I am relieved by the Oregon PUC ruling,” Sampson-Kruse said in a statement Tuesday. “I fully understand that electric energy is vital in the world we live in, but we stand strong in our belief that solar and wind energy are the correct path forward.”
PGE itself suspended efforts to secure permits for two new units at Carty earlier this year, and has instead entered into negotiations to purchase additional power from existing Northwest facilities. Spokesman Steve Corson said those negotiations are ongoing.
It is not yet certain if PGE can satisfy all its capacity needs through existing resources. If not, Corson said regulators have asked for a market study to provide greater details about other options.
Another aspect of PGE’s integrated resource plan detailed how the utility planned to add 175 average megawatts of renewable energy in order to meet Oregon’s rising renewable energy goals. Corson said PGE wants to take advantage of federal production tax credits on new projects before the incentives expired.
The utility commission did not approve that strategy either, leaving PGE to regroup on a new plan.
“They invited us to talk further with environmental groups and staff, and come back in 60 days with an update,” Corson said.
Corson described Tuesday’s meeting as “long, but constructive” and said PGE is pleased that regulators have at least acknowledged their capacity needs moving forward. Both Corson and Van’t Hof said they are looking forward to working together on refining policies.
Contact George Plaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0825.