PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, produces 77 percent of its energy via coal (as of 2012, the most recent data available) and provides electric power, transmission, and distribution services to customers in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. While other utilities are transitioning away from coal, PacifiCorp plans to invest billions to upgrade its aging coal fleet, which is the largest in the West.
Once the cost of carbon pollution and remediation is internalized, PacifiCorp’s customers face higher electricity bills. Shareholders face the risk that the utility will not be allowed to recover all of these costs from its customers, as has already been the case in Oregon, according to the report, where state utility regulators disallowed $17 million of PacifiCorp’s expenditures during its 2012 rate case because the company installed expensive new pollution controls on a number of its coal plants without examining potentially less costly energy alternatives.
PacifiCorp has already spent more than $2 billion on installing pollution controls on its aging coal plants, and according to the company’s plans, this figure will be well into the billions by 2020.
“Before following through with plans to spend billions more propping up their aging coal fleet, PacifiCorp should take a hard look at both the fundamental transformations in the energy planning landscape nationwide and the abundant clean energy options in their own backyard,” said Hausman.
The untapped available renewable energy resources in PacifiCorp’s service area total hundreds of times PacifiCorp’s needs, according to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. For example, the solar resource technical potential in Wyoming alone is more thn 100 times as large as PacifiCorp’s entire six-state requirement, while Oregon’s offshore wind potential is almost 20 times larger.