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Another Colstrip co-owner speeds up exit of coal plant

Avista Corp. will pay $3 million into community transition fund
Posted at 2:51 PM, Nov 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 16:51:25-05

A co-owner of the Colstrip power plant has accelerated its exit plan by a decade and pledged $3 million to help the community transition away from the economics of coal.

Avista Corp., one of six plant owners, announced Thursday its plans to cut off investments into Colstrip in 2025 as part of a settlement plan with utility regulators in Washington state.

Spokane, Wash.-based Avista had initially targeted an exit date between 2034 and 2036 for units 3 & 4, the plant's two newest units.

Colstrip has struggled against pushes to increase investment in renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest, where the plant sells the majority of its power, and rising competition from cheap, abundant natural gas.

Avista is at least the third co-owner to speed up its departure from Colstrip. In October, PacifiCorp said it plans to pull out of units 3 and 4 in 2027, nearly two decades earlier than originally planned. Puget Sound Energy has a similar timeline.

Colstrip is co-owned by Avista, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Talen Energy, PacifiCorp and Montana-based NorthWestern Energy. NorthWestern has said the plant could run until 2042.

Colstrip's two oldest units, 1 and 2, are co-owned by Talen and Puget Sound Energy and are slated to close by the end of this year.

In paying transition costs to the community, Avista joins Puget Sound Energy, which pledged $10 million to the same fund. Half of the $3 million pledged by Avista will come from rate payers, and the other half will come from shareholders.

Avista also plans to spend at $33 million for decommissioning and reclamation of Colstrip, according to the agreement. The state estimates total cleanup costs to hit $700 million.

The agreement was part of a rate-case dispute in Washington state and is subject to approval by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Wendy Gerlitz of the NW Energy Coalition, which helped negotiate the agreement, said the future of Colstrip is important to the utilities.

"As we transition to clean energy, it is important to take care of people in that transition. One of our highest priorities in the case was ensuring a commitment to the Colstrip community. Another important priority is access for all Avista customers to strong energy efficiency programs that help reduce their energy bills and contribute to achieving clean energy goals," Gerlitz said in a statement.