Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
One of the largest power plants in the West could be at risk if Westmoreland Coal raises the price of coal as the utility’s sole supplier as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
Nearly three-quarters of the Colstrip Power Plant’s electricity production could grind to a halt, its owners say, if Westmoreland’s potential new owners raise the price of coal from its Rosebud Mine.
Shutting down two of Colstrip’s four boilers would effectively remove 1,480 megawatts of power from the market in the west, which could be damaging to the power grid, said Bud Clinch, executive director of the Montana Coal Council. With a generating capacity of about 2,100 megawatts, the massive plant near Billings, MT, delivers power to California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
“The Colstrip power plant plays a tremendous role in the northwestern U.S.,” Clinch said, adding that he didn’t know how long it would take to find a replacement for the lost power—or if that would be possible.
But others said plenty of other power providers could pick up the slack, and consumers would actually stand to gain.
The two Colstrip boilers in question were already slated for likely retirement in 2027, when the plant is set to be paid off. The owners of the plant say retiring the two boilers could come much sooner if the bankruptcy court allows Westmoreland to tear up the existing coal contract and renegotiate for a higher price.