Wyoming Utilities Diverge In Response To Climate Change

May 7, 2014

The Jim Bridger Power Plant, one of Rocky Mountain Power's generation sources.
The Jim Bridger Power Plant, one of Rocky Mountain Power's generation sources.

The National Climate Assessment says Wyoming’s energy sector could find itself squeezed for water in the future. Both energy production and generation consume large amounts of water, but changes in precipitation patterns mean there will be less of it to go around. The report points out that across the nation, water shortages already threaten power generation for more than a million homes. That's expected to increase.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Jeff Hymas says climate change is definitely something the utility takes into account when planning for the future.

“One of the things that we’ve done to really make sure we’re well-positioned to meet concerns of climate change, is in our planning process, to make sure we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket, that we have a diverse resource mix,” Hymas says.

But other Wyoming utilities are unconcerned. Shawn Taylor, with the Wyoming Rural Electric Association, says some cooperative members don’t see the science as settled on climate change and that as a result, it would be premature to make plans for dealing with it.

“It’s not really part of the focus except when it comes to policies and regulations that are passed under the guise of climate change, and then we have to deal with those,” Taylor says.

Taylor says the cooperatives have encountered drought and extreme weather in the past, and that they’ll continue to prepare for those events, but not as part of a climate change strategy.

Both utilities say climate change regulations, like a rule due out in June about greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, will have a big impact on both utilities and consumers.