Last Coal-Fired Power Plant in Oregon Shuts Its Doors Forever
By: DAVID J. PETERSEN
On October 15, 2020 at 11:56 a.m., Portland General Electric Company shut down the coal-fired Boardman electricity generating station for the last time. Boise-based Idaho Power, which serves customers in eastern Oregon, is a minority owner in the Boardman plant and has reduced its customer rates as a result of the closure. PGE will conduct environmental cleanup at the plant in 2021 and expects to begin demolition in 2022.
The closure completes a process begun in 2010 when PGE and Idaho Power began exploring the need to install new, expensive pollution control standards at the plant. Renewable energy advocates pressed the utilities to close the plant instead by 2015, and the utilities ultimately accepted a ratepayer advocate proposal to shutter the plant by the end of 2020.
PGE continues to maintain part ownership in two coal-fired power plants in Montana, and Oregon law permits delivery of electricity from those plants to Oregon until 2035, although PGE is looking to divest itself from those plants by 2027.
In 2019, coal generated about 15% of the electricity delivered to PGE customers, with the balance coming from other sources including natural gas (35%), hydropower (18%) and wind (16%). The share of PGE's energy mix from wind and solar will continue to increase as the 300 megawatt Wheatridge wind energy project in Morrow and Umatilla Counties will soon come online, with solar power to be added to the Wheatridge project in the near future.
The Boardman plant closure continues the nationwide trend away from coal-fired electricity, which is the worst carbon-emitting source of electricity in common use. Between 2011 to 2020, coal-fired facilities around the nation equal to 172 Boardman plants either closed or switched to cleaner fuels. Only one commercial coal-fired power plant remains in operation in the State of Washington, the TransAlta facility at Centralia, which is due to close in 2025.