Troutdale gas plant proposal raises questions
By Wendy Culverwell
The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge is the site proposed for a natural gas plant to serve Portland General Electric Customers. (Photo courtesy of the Port of Portland.)
A private equity-backed New York firm is taking on Portland General Electric Co. in what amounts to a beauty contest to determine where Portland gets its power in the future.
Development Partners Group LLC proposes to build a two-plant, $850 million facility at the former Reynolds Aluminum site in Troutdale to generate power for Portland General Electric Inc.
In doing so, Development Partners casts itself as a rival to PGE, an investor-owned utility, which has its own plans to meet demand for roughly 650 megawatts with new plants in Clatskanie and Boardman.
PGE set off the competition when it requested proposals for new or existing plants to add generating capacity to its 2,800-megawatt system.
The tension is deliberate and the outcome will determine power rates for Oregonians for decades.
Oregon law demands a competitive process for new plants to keep rates low for customers of the state’s regulated utilities, which means PGE can make its own plans but they have to be more efficient than anything else offered in the market. Development Partners is the first in what will likely be a sizable pool of contestants who hope to meet the challenge. No other proposals have surfaced, but it’s still early.
“An RFP is a pretty wide net,” said Steve Corson, PGE spokesman.
The competitive approach is designed to keep power rates low for PGE’s 820,266 customers in 52 Portland-area cities.
Oregon’s Public Utility Commission will select an independent evaluator to weigh all proposals.
Whether PGE prevails or the winner ends up being Development Partners or some unknown entity, ratepayers win, said Bob Jenks, director of the Citizens Utility Board of Oregon, which advocates for ratepayers and functions as a utility watchdog.
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