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Major utility reverses decision on clean-energy transition: 'A disappointing step backward'

The plan called for the closure of both the Huntington and Hunter coal-fired plants by 2032.

The company's plan still includes other clean-energy investments — although heavily reduced.

Photo Credit: iStock

Utah's change in carbon-reduction commitments is a reversal of progress and a significant setback for sustainability efforts.

What happened?

In 2023, power company PacifiCorp announced their Integrated Resource Plan, which included an aggressive shutdown of coal-fired power plants in Emery County, Utah, in favor of nuclear power.

The plan called for the closure of both the Huntington and Hunter coal-fired plants by 2032, several years earlier than initially expected. Unfortunately, the company backtracked on its goal and re-established the closure dates of 2036 for the Huntington plant and 2042 for Hunter.

The disappointing decision is likely due to PacifiCorp's expensive wildfire liability lawsuit and subsequent rising insurance costs, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone transfer plans for Wyoming.

Why is this concerning?

Analyzing a 2021 report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that "each person in Utah generates more than 18 tons of carbon dioxide annually … about 3½ tons more than the average American, and 10 tons more than the average Californian."

Their pollution levels "[put] the state above the national average and among the heaviest greenhouse gas generators worldwide."

Coal plants release toxins, like mercury and sulfur dioxide, into the air. Excessive amounts of air pollutants can have serious impacts on health, from respiratory issues to cancer. Burning coal also releases gases like carbon dioxide, which causes the global temperature to increase.

What's being done? 

PacifiCorp's plan still includes other clean-energy investments — although heavily reduced — such as wind, storage, and solar resources. Although "this is a disappointing step backward" for Utah, said climate scientist Logan Mitchell, many other states are making great strides toward clean and sustainable energy.

Recently, California's renewable energy sources — wind, water, and solar — supplied all of their electricity demand, and the state may be entirely renewable by 2035. Texas has been increasing its solar capacity, and it surpassed California in solar installs in October of 2023. 

New advancements are constantly being made to change the way we power our planet. While the transition may take some time, through collaborative efforts, we can create a cleaner, more sustainable future for all.

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