Pacific Northwest Utilities Seek Thousands of Megawatts of New Renewable and Non-Emitting Energy: A Huge Opportunity for Independent Power Producers

Driven by the need to comply with ambitious state targets for reduction of greenhouse gases in the utility sector, the recent and planned retirement of much of the region’s coal fleet, and the capacity deficits that are anticipated as a result, utilities across the greater Pacific Northwest have recently or will soon issue requests for proposals (RFPs), which collectively create a market for roughly 6,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable or non-emitting generation, as well as energy storage.

The largest RFP, and likely one of the largest RFPs in history, is PacifiCorp’s RFP seeking a total of 4,300 in wind and solar generation, as well as battery storage. The RFP was approved by regulators in Oregon and Utah (the largest of the seven Western states in which PacifiCorp and its subsidiaries provide retail electric service) on July 2, 2020, and PacifiCorp issued the RFP on July 7. Notices of intent to bid were due July 20, bids are due August 10, and final contracts are expected to be executed in November 2021, following a series of bidder evaluations and interconnection studies.

But the PacifiCorp RFP is but one of a host of RFPs that have been released by utilities operating in the greater Pacific Northwest or that are anticipated before the end of 2020.

Two RFPs have already been released:

  • Avista Utilities, which issued an RFP on June 26 seeking 120 MW of renewable, hydroelectric, or other non-emitting resources. Initial bids were due July 22, 2020. The utility expects to make its final selection of projects on September 18, 2020.
  • Northwestern Energy also issued an RFP on June 26. The Northwestern RFP seeks between 25 MW and 300 MW of capacity and energy on a short-term basis, with contracts of 1-3 years in duration. Northwestern also has an earlier RFP, for projects meeting the requirements of Montana’s Community Renewable Energy Program, which is intended to encourage small, locally-owned renewable energy projects. Bids for the CREP RFP are due August 20, 2020, with project selection planned for October 1.

Several more RFPs are expected later this year:

  • Puget Sound Energy (PSE) on May 4 sought approval of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for a draft RFP that would, if approved, seek a total of 753 MW of capacity resources, including renewable generation and energy storage, that would come online in 2023 to 2025. PSE is also anticipating an RFP for demand-response resources for the 2021-26 period.
  • Portland General Electric is expected to issue an RFP later this year seeking 150 MW of renewable resources and another for non-emitting dispatchable resources such as pumped storage or batteries.

Collectively, these RFPs represent an enormous opportunity for developers of renewable energy and energy storage projects.

Beveridge & Diamond's Renewable Energy and Infrastructure and Project Development and Permitting practice groups help clients through all stages in project development, from conception through planning, permitting, construction, and litigation. We represent infrastructure project developers, owners, and operators, including private developers, corporations, states, municipalities, and governmental authorities. For more information, please contact the author.