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PGE pulls plug on Troutdale energy project


Developers say they will still build power plant despite PGEs alternate plan

An energy company with plans to build a gas-fired power plant in Troutdale has lost a competitive bid to sell power to Portland General Electric.

That utility announced Monday it would build a base load gas-fired power plant on a site it owns near Boardman.

Providing power for 800,000 customers, PGE had put out a request for proposals for new resources to meet the region’s growing demand for electricity.

The selections came in threefold Monday — a base-load plant near Boardman, a wind farm in southeast Washington and a new flexible peaking facility in Clatskanie.

Willard Ladd, principal at New York-based Development Partners, parent company of Troutdale Energy Center, said “PGE made its announcement, but the bid is still under discussion.”

“It hasn’t been fully vetted in front of regulators,” Ladd said.

The energy company has made a filing with regulators at the Oregon Public Utility Commission to investigate the prudence of PGE moving forwards with their plans, he said.

The filing claims PGE failed to update regulators on its transmission project, which they say impacted its bid scoring.

It also said the utility did not fairly evaluate other bids that relied on different transmission options.

“PGE hasn’t evaluated it correctly,” Ladd said.

Steve Corson, spokesman for PGE, said the utility will respond publicly in front of the commission.

He also said, “all of these projects have been through an extensive and public process, including an evaluator who submitted a report to the Oregon Public Commission and who agreed we had conducted the process impartially and appropriately to identify the resources for the most value for our customers.”

After three years of evaluating bids, Corson said PGE chose the “best performing bid from the standpoint of cost and risk for our customers.”

Base-load plants are operated by utilities to ensure a minimum of power generation in order to meet customer demands around the clock.

PGE plans to invest $440 million to build the new 440 megawatt base-load plant next to its coal-fired plant 11 miles southwest of Boardman. It is expected to serve about 300,000 customers.

The project selected is on a site PGE owns, but it was not the proposal PGE made, Corson said. It was a third party bidder, Abengoa.

Abengoa is a multinational Spanish corporation with domains in energy, telecommunications, transportation and the environment.

The site was however, one that PGE had bid into as its own benchmark proposal, Corson said.

“Basically a means of reassuring we had at least one actionable and economically sound proposal that we could act on no matter what came on the market,” he said.

Given that PGE just brought on board three new facilities, Corson said, “We probably are not going to come in with a proposal to have a lot of new resource acquisition this year.”

But Development Partners doesn’t appear to be giving up on its bid with PGE just yet.

“We feel that Troutdale, because of its unique location, provides the least cost, lowest risk resource for PGE and its customers,” Ladd said.

“We are fully committed to seeing it built and providing PGE and its customers the benefits of its unique location,” Ladd said.

Ladd said the company is focusing its attention on the decision PGE just announced and pursuing their filing with commission before they seek different customers to sell power to.

“We will see this process go through with the commission and see where it goes after that,” he said.

Development Partners still plans to move forward with building the Troutdale Energy Center, Ladd said.

The developer’s proposed 652-megawatt plant at the former Reynolds aluminum factory site — the Troutdale Energy Center — would be the largest business investment in Troutdale since the $140 million FedEx facility opened in 2010, employing around 300 construction workers and creating more than 25 high-paying permanent jobs.

Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said the developers gave the city the impression at a public meeting two months ago that they would pursue building the plant if they don’t get the PGE contract, likely seeking another purchaser for their electricity.

“We definitely want the Troutdale Energy plant to come in,” Daoust said. “It would be a good development for our industrial property, as long as all the environmental issues are dealt with, being close to Portland and the Columbia River Gorge historic area.”