PGE working on plan for its energy mix

Portland General Electric is looking for new sources of power.

Portland General Electric is looking for new sources of power.

The future of Portland’s power system will take shape in 2012 as the state’s largest private utility and regulators decide just how and where it will generate electricity for a growing population.

Portland General Electric Co. earlier this month launched an invitation to power developers to supply it with energy in the future.

The investor-owned utility is soliciting proposals to add new or existing plans to add generating capacity to its 2,800-megawatt system.

It originally wanted to solicit separate ideas for generating power during peak demand times, such as winter heating season, and to provide baseload power throughout the year.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission instead ordered it to combine the request for proposals.

Oregon law requires regulated utilities open the door to competitors to ensure the best, lowest-cost plants are built, which is supposed to help keep power rates in check.

Though it still is working out the details, at least one serious plan has been advanced by New York-based private equity-backed firm Development Partners Group LLC to construct a 650-megawatt gas-fired plant on Port of Portland-owned property in Troutdale.

Development Partners has emerged as the first of what promises to be many rivals to PGE’s own plans for plants at its Port Westward facility at Clatskanie and in Boardman, the Eastern Oregon site where it operates a coal-burning plant.

Once state regulators sign off on the process, the utility formally release a so-called request for proposal or RFP. It is too early to know how many serious contenders will respond.

At the end of the day, Oregon will end up with at least one new power plants to meet growing demand from an expanding population. Natural gas is likely to be a major fuel source for any plant it selects.

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