FCSG Statement on PRPA’s Proposed New Fracked Gas/Methane Plant

This statement was extracted from comments made by Kevin Cross to the PRPA Board on September 28th, 2023.

On September 28th, the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) board considered a draft “dispatchable generation technology” resolution asking the board to “express support for selecting and developing aero-derivative combustion turbines to provide sufficient dispatchable capacity in the near term.”  Two days earlier, PRPA staff told a community group that PRPA only wishes to begin the permitting process at this time and that actual construction of a new fracked gas/methane-fired power plant is not by any means a “done deal” if the board approves the resolution.  However, the language of the resolution presented by staff did not seem consistent with that position and we urged the board to modify it accordingly.

The FCSG has grave concerns about installing any new methane-fired generating equipment at this point in the climate crisis.  PRPA has adopted a goal of 100% non-carbon electricity by 2030, and the U.N. Secretary General has called on all developed countries to achieve this goal by 2035.  It would be unconscionable to plan to operate a methane-fired power plant after 2030 for any reason other than to fill any gaps in demand for the PRPA’s owner communities that could not be met with non-carbon resources, including storage.

Unfortunately, given that PRPA will enter into the Southwest Power Pool’s regional market in the near future, it seems likely that a new, highly efficient methane-fired power plant would be used for many years after 2030 to meet demand outside of the PRPA’s owner communities if other utilities do not meet the U.N. Secretary General’s goal.  This would seriously undercut the PRPA’s environmental responsibility pillar.

And, if other utilities DO meet or come close the U.N. Secretary General’s goal, PRPA will be left with a major “stranded asset,” which would certainly raise questions about this board’s and this management team’s commitment to PRPA’s financial sustainability pillar.

Fortunately, we believe that there are other options in addition to building a new $240 Million state-of-the art methane-fired power plant.  Those include using PRPA’s existing methane-fired turbines or converting Rawhide Unit 1 to burn methane to fill in gaps in demand for the four owner communities that cannot be met with non-carbon resources.

We urge PRPA to investigate those two options in good faith as it continues to develop the 2024 IRP.  And in the short term, we urge PRPA to modify its dispatchable generation technology resolution to reflect staff’s assertion that building a new methane plant is by no means a “done deal.”

Update posted after the board meeting: stay tuned!



Author: Kevin Cross

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