Salt River Project has decided to abandon its efforts to restart a controversial coal-fired power plant in southern Nevada, which had been shut down for more than a year under an agreement with environmental groups.
Returning the 1,580-megawatt Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev., to service would have provided valuable energy to East Valley customers, SRP officials said. But SRP said they were unable to gain assurances of timely regulatory approvals to restart the plant by 2011, even with installation of $750 million in new pollution control equipment.
“It was a timing issue,” said John Coggins, SRP’s manager of resource planning and development.
SRP is a 20 percent owner of the plant, giving it access to about 300 megawatts, which now will have to be found elsewhere to meet the Valley’s future electrical demand, he said.
Southern California Edison is the majority owner and operator of the plant, but SCE and two other co-owners, Nevada Power Co. and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, determined in June 2006 that they would not pursue the restart of the plant.
That left only SRP, which decided in September to try to form a new ownership group to buy out the three partners and revive the plant.
SRP officials said they were able to put together a new group of prospective owners, who were not identified, but they could not negotiate the purchase of SCE’s share of the plant. That was because SCE could not guarantee it would receive approval of a sale from the California Public Utilities Commission in time to get the plant restarted in 2011, Coggins said.
Political pressures have been building in California against coal-fired electric generating plants, even those beyond the borders of California.
In a statement released Tuesday, SCE said it will “continue exploring all reasonable options, including the possible sale or decommissioning” of the Mohave plant.
Coggins said SRP will wait to see what SCE can find before deciding how to dispose of its 20 percent share.
“It could be they (SCE officials) will find buyers not on the same timeline, who see the project differently,” he said.
SRP is considering several options for finding power to replace Mohave’s lost capacity, including buying electricity on the wholesale market from other power-plant operators or building its own plants, Coggins said.
Renewable sources such as solar or wind power many not be feasible on the scale of Mohave, which could produce enough electricity to supply a million homes, he said.
But SRP is studying other new clean-fuel technologies such as coal gasification, he said.
Rod Smith, Southwest representative of the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups that filed a lawsuit leading to the shutdown of Mohave, said SRP’s decision clears the way to develop more wind and solar power.