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Portland General Eyes New Gas-Fired, Renewable Power

Portland General Electric (PGE) is pushing ahead with $1.3 billion in three major new generation projects, two of which will be natural gas-fired facilities, CEO Jim Piro said during an earnings conference call on Friday.

Piro emphasized the Oregon-based utility's new generation investments -- a 220 MW gas-fired peaking facility at its existing Port Westward baseload generation plant along the Columbia River; a 440 MW gas-fired baseload plant, Carty on part of an existing Boardman coal-fired generation installation that is targeted for retirement; and a new 267 MW wind project.

The 2Q2013 loss was mostly driven by the utility's suspension of its long-standing Cascade Crossing electric transmission project and higher operating/maintenance costs, mostly due to the generation plants and the PGE distribution system, Piro said.

PGE signaled earlier this year that it was going for more gas-fired generation as it phased out its coal plants (see Daily GPIFeb. 4).

Scheduled for startup in the first quarter of 2015, the $300 million Port Westward peaker may result in a 3-4% rate increase for PGE customers. The $450 million Carty baseload project is expected to be operational in mid-2016, and the impact on customers may be a rate increase of 6-7% in 2015 or 2016.

Piro said that PGE has closed its purchase agreement with Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy to develop the second phase of the Lower Snake River Wind Farm, which PGE has named Tucannon River, in southeast Washington. The project has an estimated cost of slightly more than $500 million and is expected to be operational in the second half of 2015.

"We're looking forward to entering a significant phase of growth with the construction of three new generating plants," Piro said. "We are moving forward with our integrated resource action plan to bring in new resources on time and on budget to meet customers' long-term energy needs."

 The company reported a 2Q2013 net loss of $22 million (minus 29 cents/diluted share), compared with a 2Q2012 net profit of $26 million (34 cents).

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