KEMMERER, WY. | ERIC GALATAS, (Public News Service) – Cheaper renewable energy and storage, along with early retirement of coal-fired units in Wyoming and Utah, could save utility customers in Wyoming and five other western states upwards of $500 million over 20 years, according to a recent analysis by PacifiCorp.

The power company’s preferred Integrated Resource Plan is set to be released in October. Shannon Anderson, a staff attorney with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said the planning process is the first time PacifiCorp has reviewed the true costs of its coal fleet.

“So it’s really the first opportunity that customers of this utility have had to really understand the cost of coal,” she said, “and to understand – notably – the low cost of renewable energy.”

One version of the company’s plan calls for shutting down four units in Wyoming. Two Jim Bridger units would close in 2025 instead of 2037, and Naughton 1 and 2 would retire four years ahead of schedule in 2025.

Coal-industry groups claim the move would tilt the scales in favor of wind and solar operations, and lead to further job losses.

Anderson said the 20-year plan provides enough notice for state and local governments to help communities reliant on coal to adapt and get workers the training and resources they need to transition to new jobs. She added that PacifiCorp has a legal obligation to ensure the lowest energy costs possible for its customers.

“It’s not about providing preference to one kind of energy over another, or anything like that,” she said. “It’s really just about saving customers money.”

The public can offer additional input in early October at a meeting to be announced by the Wyoming Public Service Commission on its website. After PacifiCorp delivers its plan to each state’s utility commission, states and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to respond.