- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon’s largest utility company says it’s taking a break from its building binge.

Portland General Electric Co. has submitted a forecast to the state Public Utility Commission laying out how it expects to meet power demand over the next two decades in the least costly, least risky fashion for ratepayers, The Oregonian reported (http://bit.ly/1dOXXsF ).

PGE’s plan focuses on energy efficiency and demand reduction rather than big new plants. The utility is looking for the commission to bless the plan, providing some assurance that regulators will allow rates to recover the investments.

PGE has been spending heavily on new resources to backfill a long-standing generation shortfall that will be exacerbated when long-term hydroelectric contracts expire between now and 2018. The utility is also adding wind energy to comply with state renewable energy requirements.

The capital expenditures are the utility’s largest since it invested in its now-shuttered Trojan nuclear plant, and ratepayers will see the impact as $1.25 billion in investments begin generating power.

By next year, PGE plans to bring on a natural gas plant in Clatskanie and the Tucannon River wind farm in southeast Washington.

By mid-2016, it hopes to have another natural gas plant running in Boardman.

In the meantime, the company says it will concentrate on cost-effective energy efficiency through the Energy Trust of Oregon and working with customers on programs to reduce demand during peak periods.

PGE’s plan includes pilot programs and experiments to help it determine how to replace its coal plant at Boardman, its largest source of electricity. The plant is to close in 2020.

The company is increasingly dependent on natural gas, historically a fuel with volatile prices. Ratepayer and environmental advocates are pushing the utility to explore options beyond replacing Boardman’s coal plant with one that burns gas.

PGE’s plan includes studies of emerging energy efficiency technologies, distributed solar generation, the potential conversion of Boardman to run on biomass, and options to secure a longer-term gas supply to protect customers.

Regulators have six months to review the plan. The company hopes to receive an acknowledgement later this year.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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