It’s Monday, October 7, and a major Western energy company is ditching coal for renewables.

On Friday, one of the largest energy utilities in the West announced that it will close two-thirds of its coal power plants by 2030. PacifiCorp will build solar and wind infrastructure amounting to thousands of megawatts to replace them, mostly in Utah and Wyoming.

According to PacifiCorp executive Rick Link, the decision is primarily financial — renewables are “simply more cost effective” thanks in part to production tax credits and investment tax credits that incentivize green energy infrastructure. Nonetheless, PacifiCorp’s planned renewable investments will double solar energy production in Wyoming as well as Oregon. The coal plants scheduled for retirement in the coming decade were responsible for half of PacifiCorp’s CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2018.

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Elected officials from coal-dependent states like Wyoming are resistant to the decision, citing the economic impact on the communities that house the plants and the mines that supply them. Environmental groups aren’t entirely satisfied, either, saying that PacifiCorp’s timeline is too slow to meet the emission reduction deadlines set by scientists.

It’s not just tax incentives making the shift from coal to renewables financially appealing — consumer demand for renewable energy is way up. According to the Energy Department data, voluntary renewable energy purchases have increased nearly 300 percent since 2010.

Miyo McGinn

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