Concluding a day of energy industry activities, the Southeastern Utah Energy Producers Association hosted its banquet at the Elks Lodge on Sept. 28. SEUEPA president, Rick Olsen introduced the guest speaker, Richard Walje, the president of Rocky Mountain Power.
Olsen said, "This is an important day with the open house and dedication of the Western Energy Training Center. There have been a lot of contributors to the project and it's finally accomplished. On behalf of SEUEPA and the membership we wish to thank the political folks and the industry for their help and advice."
Walje said, "This part of the state has a proud history and I have an affinity for it. My grandparents are buried in Green River and I have spent a lot of time rock hounding in the area. I tell people that I hand dug holes and that my mining experience began below ground level."
Walje expressed his appreciation for the people receiving lifetime service awards in the energy field. He said he admires their dedication and commitment in work that is often hazardous.
"I am proud to be part of an industry that has a direct impact on the quality of life. What people don't realize is they enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor. This is what makes America a strong country. Utah is the fifth fastest growing state and Idaho is the third. Wyoming is also growing rapidly because of the energy boom. This growth puts a stress on Rocky Mountain Power when the economy is thriving."
Walje told the audience about the need for more power plants to handle peak loads. When RMP has to build plants, it may need to drive up the price of electricity. "This presents a huge challenge. Each 3 percent growth in energy usage constitutes a 6 percent increase in peak growth," said Walje.
Walje said RMP is spending $1 billion a year to respond to new demand and the company plans to keep up with the demand through continued coal and wind power generation.
Ninety percent of the power generated by PacifiCorp is from coal fired operations.
"Coal generation is part of what we do. It is the least expensive of fuels. We are looking at coal fired plants at IPP and Hunter as well as a project at Bridger. These projects have been submitted to the public service commission. Coal does have some issues as a fuel. It is abundant and low cost and we know how to mine it, but coal has some drawbacks," said Walje.
"RMP continues to develop other energy options and encourages conservation of our product," said Walje.
"Some people consider coal generation to be a major contributor to global warming. We don't have all the answers. The governor has started a committee to look at climate change and global warming and we are on that committee.
"We can embrace coal and still care about the environment. We just invested $150 million at the Huntington plant on coal wash. We care about the environment. The issue of climate change is a complex one, but we are committed to understanding all of the aspects of climate change. As a practical matter, we will do more with alternative fuels. We are looking at new technology which includes the converting of coal to a liquid fuel which is more efficient. You can take the pollutants out before it is burned. We are looking at doing a plant at Bridger or Hunter. You must understand the new technologies are not proven yet. New plants will be built using the old proven technology," said Walje. But the new technologies are being thoroughly investigated by RMP experts.
He also noted the advances in the electrical industry due to technology, but also how things have remained the same in some ways. Computers are used to run electrical networks. Helicopters check power lines for problems. Robots do some high tech work and GPS aids in exploration.
"As technology evolves then so must the workforce. I am pleased with the foresight shown in this area to build the Western Energy Training Center. I am happy to be part of that important step forward. This is good news," concluded Walje.