Don’t Close San Juan Power Station Yet

San Juan Power Station


After reading the recent AP article about the closing of San Juan Power Station, the numbers referenced did not add up for me. The plant was recently upgraded with scrubbers that made the San Juan coal fired power plant the cleanest in the US. That was paid for by the rate payers of the electricity generated for the western half of New Mexico, eastern part of Arizona and the southern part of Utah. The NM Governor’s energy transition act (ETA) signed into law requires the plant to close before the arbitrary 2040 zero emission schedule. 

What doesn’t add up is the rush to close the plant by 2022 when there is still 20 years of cheap electricity that could be generated from the plant before the 2040 ETA deadline. The cost to upgrade with carbon capture was estimated at $6 billion dollars or to replace the plant with wind and solar and natural gas backup for $5.4 billion dollars, based on modeling projections. This $11.4 billion dollar cost could be deferred until 2040 and save the rate payers and the tax payers (subsidized by the State). 

What would be the cost to the rate and tax payers if nothing was done to San Juan right now and just let it produce electricity for another 20 years while providing cheap electricity to three states and continued jobs for the local population. 

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems(UAMPS), one of the San Juan owners, is funding the development of small modular nuclear reactors being built at Idaho National Labs (INL). This nuclear site, with its 12 small reactors, will provide electricity for Northern Utah, Eastern Washington and Idaho. Another nuclear plant site at Four Corners would be a better solution for San Juan closure.

My recommendation is to leave the San Juan Power Station “as is” for the next 20 years and invest in more cost effective and innovative power sources like carbon capture methane free natural gas and clean nuclear to meet the zero emission requirement of the ETA 2040 schedule.