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Why is Utah Electric Kwh Costs so Low ?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Why is the Kwh cost of electricity in Utah and Wyoming  so cheap and right next door is California paying almost twice as much per Kwh? 


Why doesn't Utah and Wyoming make snow all summer at that price per Kwh? 



post #2 of 15

CA has the most extensive regulatory regime on energy in the country. It also has 10% of the population of the USA. Put those together and you get expensive electricity.

post #3 of 15

Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado primarily rely on coal for electricity.  California has not allowed coal fired power plants to be sited in the state since the late 70's, and relies on gas, imported coal, some nuclear, imported hydroelectric generation (when its available), and, increasingly, extremely expensive renewable generation for its power.



post #4 of 15

Lots and Lots of Natural gas in Both Utah and Wyoming. There are also massive wind farms poping up all over.  NG is very cheap in Utah. A lot of Utah's Power comes from NG.  If you have a car that runs on NG it is less then $1 per gal in Utah.

post #5 of 15

Click the image to see full size.  86% of Utah's power comes from coal.  The prices in the blue and green states will begin to match those in the orange and red states as coal is phased out in an effort to reduce carbon levels. 



post #6 of 15

The rates posted above for California are not what we really pay; we pay much more!  California residential ratepayers are provided a baseline amount of power at a rate of about 11.5-cents/kwh called Tier I.  This only covers the first 16.5 Kw of power per day (495 kW/month), then you go into Tier II at 13.1-cents and Tier III at 26-cents, Tier IV at 38-cents and Tier V at 44-cents/kwh.  Baseline power is a survival level of power consumption that will be exceeded by a household running any air conditioning or more than one efficient refrigerator or an electric dryer.


Total Energy Rates ($ per kWh)
Baseline Usage $0.11531 (R)
101% - 130% of Baseline $0.13109 (R)
131% - 200% of Baseline $0.25974 (I)
201% - 300% of Baseline $0.37866 (I)
Over 300% of Baseline $0.44098 (I)
Total Minimum Charge Rate ($ per meter per day) $0.14784


Consider the average 2-ton 7-seer air conditioner consumes 3429 watts per hour.  The baseline is only 687.5 watts.  When temperatures soar over 110 degrees F, as they often do in the summer, that AC will run all the time.  That can quickly put you at Tier V before ever running the lights, refrigerators, appliances or swimming pool.  I wish California had the  12-cent power shown in that table.


post #7 of 15


Originally Posted by catskills View Post


Why doesn't Utah and Wyoming make snow all summer at that price per Kwh? 


Well for one, you can't make snow at temps higher than 38 degrees. For common humidity levels, the max temp is more like 32 degrees.


Ski resorts typically close with more snow on the mountain than when they open. They typically don't close because of lack of snow. They close because of lack of customers. There are not enough potential summertime customers to make money. At best there is marginal quality and coverage. We already have some Western resorts that stay open into the summer with natural snow coverage. For example, Snowbird, Arapahoe Basin and some California resorts can sometimes stay open through July 4. Mount Hood stays open even later. Western resorts typically use snowmaking for spot coverage instead of covering 90-100% of skiable terrain like Eastern resorts do. It is way too costly (there's a huge up front cost besides the electricity) to have snowmaking for the whole resort when you have plenty of natural snow through most of the season and a huge amount of terrain to cover.

post #8 of 15

If you think California is bad, check out Hawaii. No wonder I'm broke. 

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post

The rates posted above for California are not what we really pay; we pay much more!  ..........I wish California had the  12-cent power shown in that table.


Wow that sucks .  California folks need to get some really long electric extension cords from Utah. 

post #10 of 15

California may not burn the coal within its borders, but it's fine with other states providing the energy:


LOS ANGELES, April 27 (Reuters) - Intermountain Power Agency reopened the 900 megawatt Unit 1 at the Intermountain coal-fired power station in Utah by Monday afternoon after being shut for a month of planned maintenance, according to a report by the California Independent System Operator.


The unit went offline in late March and was expected to be about a month.


About half the power from the plant goes to the Los Angeles municipal utility.


Each unit at Intermountain shuts for about a month each spring for maintenance every other year. In years the units do not shut for a month of maintenance, they shut for about a week every other year in the spring.


The 1,800 MW Intermountain station is near Lynndyl in Millard County about 120 miles (190 km) south-southwest of Salt Lake City. There are two 900 MW units, 1 and 2, at the station, which entered service in 1986 and 1987.


Most of the station's power (74.9 percent) goes to six California municipal power companies. The rest goes to 23 municipal utilities (14 percent), six cooperatives (7 percent) and one investor-owned utility (4 percent) in Utah.


The biggest owners include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (44.6 percent), the California cities of Anaheim (13.2 percent), Riverside (7.6 percent) and Pasadena (4.4 percent), Murray City in Utah (4 percent) and PacifiCorp's Rocky Mountain Power in Utah (4 percent).


PacifiCorp is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc's (BRKa.N) MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.


One megawatt powers about 800 homes in Utah and 700 homes in California. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Bill, thanks for posting.  That is interesting.  Looks like selling electricity to California is a sweet deal for Utah.

post #12 of 15

Catskills, there's no question that mining and burning coal is a good thing economically for Utah.  Is it worth the noticable haze found throughout much of Utah's central and southern landscape?  Most of Utah says yes.  I also find it interesting that a single megawatt will power 800 homes in Utah but only 700 in California. 

post #13 of 15

The issues of coal fired power plants and the Colorado plateau have been around since the late 70's.  The Warner-Allen case was a seminal case in the development of California's power sector, when the California utilities basically wanted to site a large coal-fired power plant next to Bryce national park.  The Environmental Defense Fund filed suit, fought it before the state public utilities commission, and eventually won.  There is an interesting book that details that story called Virgins and Dynamos, or something like that.  Since that time, the California investor-owned utilities have not been able to enter into any additional contracts or projects for coal-fired generation.


LADWP, a municipal utility, however, did take a role in development of the Intermountain Power Project and its expansion.  Irrespective of whether utilities are investor-owned or publicly-owned, it has been extremely difficult to site new power plants in the state, which is one of the reasons that led to the power crisis in California in 2000-2001.


New coal-fired power plants are more or less off the table anywhere in the US today.  The environmental community has a well developed strategy of litigating the results of the permitting process that yield any permits, and the practical matter is that a developer today (whether an independent power producer or a utility) will run out of patience, money, or both before they get the permits that would allow them to build.  And any plants that would contribute to haze on the Colorado Plateau, with the impingement of National Parks, are even less likely to be built.  In fact, the Mohave power plant was shut down by SCE because they didn't think it was economic to sink the capital into controls on the plant given the uncertainty of future operating restrictions on the plant.


Currently, California has adopted an extremely aggressive requirement that 33% of the power needs of the state will come from renewable energy.  Renewable generation is quite expensive, and you may have noted some "interesting" contracts coming from the state's investor-owned utilities who are attempting to comply with the regulations.  A few weeks ago, PG&E signed a contract with a developer who is going to put a geosynchronous PV system in space that will beam power to a ground station.  Tom's rates are only going to go up!



post #14 of 15

 California folks need to get some really long electric extension cords from Utah. 

As detailed above, we do.  62% of Pasadena's power comes from Utah coal.  I live in Glendale which also has a municipal utility.  Muni utility rates are lower.  Glendale is 10 cents baseline and 20 cents beyond that.


California has a rebate system to encourage homeowners to install solar power.  For a muni utility like Glendale it's quite generous.  A 6 kW system is being installed on my house now.  The Glendale rebate covers half the cost and the now uncapped Federal tax credit will cover 30% of the rest.  The result is that my first year utility savings are estimated to be about 14% of the net cost of the photovoltaic system.  This will look even better if rates go up in the future.


Tom's higher utility rates are probably from PG&E.  Even higher than SCE rates here in SoCal that top out at 33 cents I think.  The rebate declines as more solar systems are installed.  The SCE rebate is about half what Glendale's is.  But with the higher utility costs first year savings are still in the 10% range of the cost of a photovoltaic system. 

post #15 of 15

Up here in NW Montana, we are paying a fixed monthly fee of $16, plus usage at $.057 per KWH.  It worked out this last month to only $.07 per KWH.  But then we're near the Hungry Horse Dam and the electric company is a "co-op".  The nonprofit co-op currently gets 100 percent of its electricity from the federal Bonneville Power Administration, which gets some of its power from dams like Hungry Horse, but primarily from the Columbia River Basin, in addition to a nuclear plant, and wind generation. 

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