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PSE needs to further justify reliance on coal

World Coal,

Washington regulators have acknowledged Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) updated 20-year plan to obtain electricity, however they have been unable to conclude whether the utility’s reliance on older coal-fired power plants in Colstrip, Montana, is justified.

After a lengthy review process, the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) said PSE’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan fails to answer questions about the future financial viability of the older Colstrip power plants.

Colstrip power plants

The Colstrip power plants comprise four units. PSE owns 50% of the two older units, built between 1975 and 1976, and 25% of the others. The company obtains approximately 30% of its electric power from the Colstrip plants.

Noting that PSE likely will face major investment decisions for the Colstrip plants in a few years, the UTC said it needs additional information before determining “the prudency of any new investment in Colstrip […] or, in the alternative, a closure or partial-closure plan.”

Higher carbon costs

In its consideration of PSE’s justification for reliance on Colstrip power, the UTC said the utility must better explore potential cost impacts, including the likelihood of higher carbon costs and tougher federal environmental regulations, as well as projected natural gas prices and demand for electricity.

Commenting on PSE’s plan, commission chairman, David Danner, stated: “[W]e simply could not determine whether Colstrip power generation should or should not be part of PSE’s portfolio. We invite the company to continue its analysis, perhaps in the context of a more formal proceeding, in order to better answer the cost-effectiveness questions.”


PSE provides power to 1.1 million customers, as well as natural gas to 760 000 customers, mainly in the Puget Sound region.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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