PacifiCorp has begun soliciting bids for up to 4.3 gigawatts of solar, wind and battery storage projects, part of a massive clean-energy growth plan that will open the utility's six-state territory to third-party renewable energy developers.
This week's all-source request for proposals (RFP) unveils hard details of the procurement plan released this spring, calling for a mix of renewables and energy storage that can be built in time to capture the value of the declining federal wind and solar tax credits. All projects must be able to start commercial operation by the end of 2024, unless they’re pumped-hydro projects which require longer lead times.
While the terms of the RFP allow for bids for different technologies, the solicitation is designed to support the long-range plans laid out in PacifiCorp’s integrated resource plan filed last year. That plan broke new ground for the 1.9-million-customer utility by setting its first long-range goals for replacing the coal-fired power it largely relies on today with a mix of solar and wind farms backed by energy storage.
PacifiCorp’s territory includes states that have set 100 percent clean energy targets, such as Washington, or have attempted to do so, such as Oregon. Others, including Utah and Wyoming, have resisted pressure from activists and local governments to take this path.
PacifiCorp’s integrated resource plan included a short-term preferred portfolio that guides the newly released RFP, including 1,823 megawatts of new solar resources co-located with 595 megawatts of new battery energy storage system capacity and 1,920 megawatts of new wind resources. PacifiCorp's preferred portfolio includes plans to close five coal plants in Wyoming by 2028.
PacifiCorp’s integrated resource plan identifies Wyoming as the likely site of most of its new wind power, where new transmission lines are being built to capture the state’s high wind potential, including Rocky Mountain Power's Gateway West project. Its solar power is being largely targeted for Utah, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.
In a departure from its typical approach of building and owning generation assets itself, PacifiCorp’s new RFP calls for two different transaction structures that will leave project development in the hands of third parties. Those include power-purchase agreements of between 15 and 30 years in duration, and build-transfer transactions in which bidders develop projects and sell them to the utility.
Allowing third-party ownership models is “important for retaining the diversity of resources in the region," Spencer Gray, executive director of the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition, told Greentech Media in May. The trade group’s members include EDF Renewable Energy, Invenergy, Constellation Exelon, Shell Energy North America and others with significant fleets of renewable energy projects across the country.
Buffett's mixed track record on clean energy
PacifiCorp and its utility subsidiaries, Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power, are part of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s utility portfolio, which also includes MidAmerican Energy in Iowa and NV Energy in Nevada, has a mixed track record on clean energy.
While MidAmerican has one of the largest wind power portfolios in the country, it’s also dependent on coal-fired power. NV Energy fought solar net metering for years before facing a voter backlash and has turned its focus toward procuring gigawatts' worth of utility-scale solar-battery projects.
Berkshire Hathaway has made significant investments in fossil fuel industries in the past several years. This week it agreed to a $10 billion purchase of Dominion Energy’s interstate natural-gas pipeline and storage business; Buffett recently acknowledged that an earlier $10 billion investment in oil company Occidental Petroleum was “a mistake.”
Over a longer horizon, PacifiCorp’s integrated resource plan calls for more than 4,600 megawatts of new wind power, more than 6,300 megawatts of solar power and more than 2,800 megawatts of energy storage by 2038. But it also envisions adding new natural-gas-fired peaker plants starting in 2026.