The Intermountain Power Project’s days as a massive plant that produces electricity for an energy-hungry Southern California through coal-fired generation probably are coming to an end.
Exactly what it will become is only beginning to take shape, with more questions than answers surrounding its future. Certainty, where it can be found, says that the changes could be profound, impacting the state’s coal industry, ratepayers and the environment, just to name few.
Elected officials from sprawling Los Angeles, which gets nearly 45 percent of its power from IPP, voted recently to end reliance on electricity generated from coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner but more expensive natural gas by 2025, two years ahead of a state-mandated deadline.
Although L.A.’s announcement should help pave the way for construction of a natural gas-fired generating unit at IPP to meet that decree, it casts doubt on the long-term viability of the Utah power plant’s two existing coal-fired units. Those units, which in 2012 gulped almost a third of the coal produced in Utah, also provide electricity to five other Southern California municipalities and on an as-needed basis to smaller cities in the Beehive State. Salt Lake Tribune