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Study: Proposed Energy Grid Merger Would Increase Carbon Pollution


Monday, June 13, 2016   

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Carbon pollution from power plants would increase across the West if a proposal to merge California's energy market with PacifiCorp goes forward, according to a new study by the California Independent System Operator.

Shane Levy, senior press secretary for the Sierra Club, says the move would result in an increase in the use of older coal-fired power plants that have higher greenhouse gas emissions.

"A production modeling was released that shows this proposed merger would result in more carbon emissions, more carbon pollution and more coal pollution in air and water across the West," she states.

Operators say coordinating energy grids is key to keeping costs down, enhancing reliability and helping states meet clean energy requirements.

According to a Casper Star-Tribune report, Wyoming legislators and Gov. Matt Mead worry the plan could allow California to import its policies of getting at least 50 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030.

An initial feasibility study found merging western grids could save customers almost $9 billion over the next 20 years.

Levy says the new report underscores why details matter in how regional markets are designed.

"A proposed merger could, in turn, prolong the life of some of the dirtiest plants in the West,” he maintains. “So, yes, there are potential benefits, but we need to make sure that a market is developed in such a way that ensures that carbon emissions continue to decline."

Levy says fast-tracking the merger could provide a lifeline for Pacificorp's coal-fired power plants, which make up 60 percent of its energy production.

"We should really look at this as an opportunity to accelerate a just transition that doesn't leave workers behind, that supports communities, but at the same time isn't locking these different states and communities into a future that continues to be so dependent on coal-fired power plants," he says.

A final report on the proposed merger is expected to be released later this month.

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