Investigation Launched Into Rocky Mountain Power's Integrated Resource Plan

Nov 14, 2019

Preferred portfolio cited in the PSC's order to initiate an investigation
Credit Wyoming Public Service Commission

The Wyoming Public Service Commission has initiated an investigation into Rocky Mountain Power's (RMP) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed on October 18, 2019.

The IRP lays out a road map for the company's electricity generation for the next 10 to 20 years. In addition to investing more in solar, wind and battery storage, Rocky Mountain Power prefers a portfolio that would result in the early closure of two Wyoming coal plants.

"Given the potential impact of RMP's Preferred Portfolio on Wyoming customers, it is necessary and desirable that the Commission commence a contested case proceeding, pursuant to the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act, to allow the Commission and other interested parties to adequately explore all aspects of the 2019 IRP," the order reads.

Chris Petrie, chief counsel for the Wyoming Public Service Commission, said, to his knowledge, the agency has never investigated an IRP before. Generally, the commission publishes notice of an IRP, solicits public comment, studies the plan and holds an open meeting.

"They have generally been accepted for filing without any further action. This IRP however is extraordinary in its potential impact," Petrie said.

"Any decision to retire coal-fired generation units prior to the end of their established depreciable lives may adversely impact the cost and reliability of service provided to RMP's Wyoming customers while producing significant negative economic impacts," the order reads.

The investigation will look into several factors including its stated carbon dioxide emissions reductions, the time period and customer impact in the calculated $111 million customer benefit and costs associated with existing and potential environmental regulations.

Petrie said there's no predetermined outcome of the investigation other than furthering understanding and that the commission is not looking to deter anything.

"We want to make sure the commission is completely aware of the methodologies, assumptions and the entire process that was carried on in this IRP and that results in the preferred portfolio that the company has identified," he said.

2019 IRP Preferred Portfolio Coal Retirements*
Credit Rocky Mountain Power

The commission is still determining the parameters of the discovery process, presentation of testimony and other aspects of the investigation. But several public hearings are already planned.

Petrie said it remains to be seen whether any action will be taken based on what they learn through the course of the investigation, but a lawsuit is unlikely.

Public comment will be held at the Kemmerer City Council Chambers on January 28, 2020 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. There will be another hearing at the Rock Springs City Council Chambers on January 29, 2020 from 11:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m. There will also be a public hearing in the commission's hearing room in Cheyenne on May 5-6, 2020.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission is already investigating the coal study released by Rocky Mountain Power's parent company Pacificorp in 2018 that laid a foundation for the October IRP.

In a statement, Rocky Mountain Power said they’re looking forward to addressing all questions from the commission, noting it has already participated with interested residents, industry groups and elected officials through the 2019 IRP process. 

“In preparing these long-range plans every other year, the company engages in an extensive open public process with meetings over many months, where utility regulators, elected officials, or any interested member of the public can attend, ask questions and submit comments as the process develops toward the final plan. Each plan receives a shorter update in the intervening year to address changing economic and operational conditions,” it read.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.