PGE's power plant beauty contest coming to a head
By Wendy Culverwell
Time's up this week on Portland General Electric's hunt for new baseload energy sources.
A beauty contest to choose Portland’s next major electrical power source struts toward the final phase this week.
Accion Group, an independent evaluator working for the Oregon Public Utilities Commission, signed off Wednesday on the process Portland General Electric Co. is using to choose how it will add generating capacity to its 2,800-megawatt system to meet growing demand. In its final report, Accion said PGE has "acted in good faith" to create a fair process for all developers who submitted projects.
Now, PGE will narrow a the field of 32 candidates to three or four. The winner will be crowned later this year.
PGE needs 300 to 500 megawatts of new baseload capacity, 200 megawatts of peaking capacity and 150 megawatts of winter peaking capacity to serve more than 820,000 customers in 52 Portland-area cities.
The Portland utility announced a competitive process to supply new power in 2011 and officially solicited proposals in 2012.
The stakes are high.
A new power plant could cost the better part of $1 billion to build. While such projects can boost local economies with their outsized construction budgets and ongoing need for employees, power plants generate pollution and can be unpopular neighbors. Local opposition is certain to dial up the heat on an already complicated permitting process.
Getting it right is critical for PGE’s 820,000-plus customers in 52 cities, who will pay for the plant via power rates for decades to come.
The call for proposals attracted 32 bids representing 15 distinct generating projects. PGE submitted its own “benchmark” proposal but must prove its plans are more efficient that what it can procure on the open market.
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