Kennecott Shuttering Utah Coal Plant In Favor Of Renewable Energy

After 75 years of operation, mining company Rio Tinto Kennecott is retiring the Utah Power Plant, a coal facility located in Magna, Utah.

Following regulatory approval, Kennecott will pair 1.5 million MWh of electricity with Green-e Energy certified carbon-free renewable energy certificates (RECs), primarily from Rocky Mountain Power’s growing portfolio of wind and solar resources.

The plant retirement and acquisition of RECs will remove more than 1 million tons of CO2 from Kennecott’s Wasatch Front operations and reduce its annual carbon footprint by as much as 65%. This is an important milestone in achieving Rio Tinto’s goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050.

“Retiring our power plant is an important milestone for our business because it will immediately reduce our emissions to the local airshed, and I’m proud that Kennecott is a leader in pairing our electrical needs with carbon-free renewable energy certificates,” says Marc Cameron, managing director of Rio Tinto Kennecott.

Since the early 1990s, Kennecott has proactively idled the plant each winter to reduce emissions during winter inversions. Instead of starting the power plant up again this spring, the company decided to retire the plant and collaborate with the local utility, government and communities to deliver an alternative and reliable power solution.

“Rio Tinto’s decision to retire their power plant is a win-win for our community,” comments Gov. Gary R. Herbert, R-Utah. “Their decision will simultaneously support Utah’s shift toward a low-carbon economy and improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley.”

Rocky Mountain Power’s CEO, Gary Hoogeveen, adds, “This latest initiative between Kennecott, Rocky Mountain Power and our community leaders shows how continued collaboration leads to great solutions for our customers and the environment.”

Kennecott’s Utah Power Plant was a four-unit, 175 MW thermal generator that could be fired with coal or natural gas. Put into operation in 1943 to help serve the Allied war effort, the power plant has served as a reliable and important source of power to the mining business and has contributed to the production of millions of tons of copper, the company says.

There will be no job impacts as a result of the power plant retirement, maintains Rio Tinto Kennecott.

“We applaud Kennecott’s decision to shutter its Magna coal plant,” comments Joro Walker, general counsel at Salt Lake City-based Western Resource Advocates. “This move will help improve air quality along the Wasatch Front, particularly in the summer, when the Salt Lake metropolitan area is experiencing increasingly severe concentrations of ozone pollution.”