Home Energy system How Can Utah Lower Its Electricity Bills? A regional transport network could help

How Can Utah Lower Its Electricity Bills? A regional transport network could help

0


A study conducted by Utah and funded by the US Department of Energy examined how a collaboration to form a shared power transmission system in the region could benefit 11 western states, and the savings appear potentially huge.

What size ?

Utility providers in these states could achieve savings of up to $ 2 billion per year by 2030 and for Utah those savings could reach $ 99 million per year.

Such savings could be passed on to consumers, as the utilities of these states pool their resources in terms of managing the energy network and investing in new transmission infrastructure.

Think of it as a huge exchange meeting, where buyers and sellers exchange goods, but in this case, deals are made on the power grid and how it is run.

Wind power from Wyoming ends up in Nevada. Utah supplies parts of Washington state with solar power.

To a large extent, this is already happening with PacifiCorp, which serves Utah and five other states by swapping electrical resources on the grid.

Power produced by hydropower on the Pacific coast could very well end up in Utah, while power produced by coal in that state will be put on the grid of other member states.

PacifiCorp is part of a group of utilities in the western United States that formed an exploratory group to conduct further investigation into how a centralized approach to electricity delivery could improve grid reliability through to additional investments in transport and to the improvement of the diversity of resources.

Vijay Satyal, regional director of energy markets for Western Resource Advocates, said a west-wide system would allow Utah to harness more renewable energy resources at a lower cost and foster an upgrade grid connections through greater transport capacity.

“What’s the best in the Northwest?” What’s the best about Utah? What’s the best about Montana? What’s the best in the Southwest? If you have a regional market, you can leverage all of that to create multiple buyers and multiple sellers, ”he said. “So this will allow us to harness the strength of the diversity of resources across the West.” “

Power lines run through Roy on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

But executives in Utah and PacifiCorp are a bit cautious about the proposal and say it will only make sense if it improves network reliability and keeps prices low for consumers.

“At the end of the day, Utah has a good, affordable and reliable system for electrical service,” said Thad LeVar, chairman of the Utah Utilities Commission that regulates the state’s utilities.

That said, LeVar acknowledged that anything that could be an improvement should be considered and evaluated thoroughly.

Everyone agrees that the success of a regional transport organization for the West depends on its structure.

After the initial study was released, state officials in Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Montana released a statement stressing the importance of the assessment, but expressing concern that the states non-coastal could be linked to a real program of “power” which does not favor their interests.

“Western utilities operate in different climates – natural, economic and regulatory – and the results of studies relevant to one entity might make little difference to another,” the letter said.

The letter went on to point out that while some observers accuse Western electricity markets of being “balkanized”, the long-standing tradition is cooperation.

A consolidated western-wide transmission organization is not meant to prevent a shutdown like the one earlier this year when a deep frost hit Texas, cutting power for days. Texas is its own operational island for the delivery of electricity.

Power lines run through Roy on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

Power lines run through Roy on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

But Satyal said even a highly integrated system like Utah’s Rocky Mountain Power could benefit as it brings more resources to the table to increase capacity by pooling the capital investments of utility companies in the states. participants. It is also working towards national goals of becoming carbon-free by relying on renewable energies.

He added that the organizational structure of any governance across the West must be transparent and accountable to all states, not just the big coastal players with those clean energy mandates already in place.

This potential “takeover” is what worries a little Thom Carter, energy adviser to Utah Governor Spencer Cox and director of the Utah Office of Energy Development.

“It looks like we’re in a pretty good position already,” he said, noting that other states have multiple energy providers while Utah relies on PacifiCorp, which owns most of the generators. electricity, transmission and distribution lines.

“We have some of the lowest electricity rates in the country,” Carter said. “I think this conversation revolves around sustainability and having that sustainability on a western scale is fascinating.”

He said the key factor is finding common ground between states like Utah, Colorado and Montana when it comes to dealing with California and other coastal states with mandates. renewable energy.

“It starts with the governance structure,” he said.

Satyal said his group and other advocacy organizations are working hard to ensure that public interests are at the forefront as this new dynamic may come into play, with fairness ensured among states that may adopt another way. to balance energy needs.

“The governance structure is doable,” he said, and each state will realize savings depending on its regulatory structure. The Utah Civil Service Commission, for example, would not relinquish regulatory control.

Carter pointed out that Utah is thrilled to be part of the movement for the possibility of forming this Western-wide transmission organization, but literally “the politics of power” needs careful consideration and development. monitoring of taxpayers.

“People don’t think about energy until it’s there or if it costs more. We want to make sure people focus on other things and that’s not a big concern for them. “

Katya Krasnova holds her dog Quiche in her coat and pets Boo as she sits under the power lines at Roy Dog Park in Roy on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

Katya Krasnova holds her dog Quiche in her coat and pets Boo as she sits under the power lines at Roy Dog Park in Roy on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News