June 27, 2008

California Utility to Stop Drawing Power From Navajo Coal Plant in Arizona

By Bill Coates

A major California utility plans to cut the switch on its share of electricity from a large coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona, citing a need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power expects to stop drawing power from Navajo Generating Station in 11 years, when the power plant's lease with the Navajo Nation expires.

A 2007 California state law requires utilities to move away from power sources that emit greenhouse gases. Coal-fired plants such as the Navajo Generating Station release a high amount of carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas - relative to other sources, including natural gas, nuclear energy and renewables like wind and solar energy.

"By the year 2019, as things stand at the present, we would no longer import power from Navajo," said David Nahai, LADWP's chief executive officer.

As a partner in the Navajo Generating Station, LADWP uses slightly more than a fifth of the power generated by the 2,250- megawatt plant. The station is managed by Salt River Project.

Nahai said it didn't matter that the Navajo Generating Station was near Page, hundreds of miles from Los Angeles.

"With respect to carbon, carbon is a greenhouse gas. It affects the planet," Nahai said. "So the fact that is goes into the air in Arizona or anywhere else isn't an issue. Carbon dioxide is not a local pollutant. It's a global pollutant."

Nahai added that LADWP supports moving toward more renewable energy sources.

Los Angles, he said, derives about 15 percent of its electricity from the Navajo station.

The utility will make up the loss with renewable energy, Nahai said. A 2006 report showed that nearly 50 percent of LADWP's power came from coal.

Other Navajo Generating Station partners are: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, SRP, Arizona Public Service, Nevada Power and Tucson Electric Power.

Salt River Project spokesman Scott Harrelson said the consortium has a 40-year lease with the Navajo Nation, which owns the land.

Nahai suggested that LADWP could still retain part ownership in the plant -- though he would not be specific.

"We're still looking at all of our options and alternatives as far as Navajo is concerned," Nahai said.

If LADWP keeps its ownership interest, it would be up to that utility to find a user for its share of power, Harrelson said. In an earlier interview, he said there likely will be no shortage of takers.

"That's going to be a valuable commodity, despite its carbon footprint, because you don't have to build it. You simply purchase it," Harrelson said.

Originally published by Bill Coates.

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