We Energies to shut Pleasant Prairie coal plant, increase renewables
- We Energies announced yesterday that it will shut down its Pleasant Prairie coal-fired power plant in the second quarter of 2018, citing pressures from inexpensive natural gas and stagnant demand. The utility also announced it would be investing in renewable energy, with plans to have 350 MW of solar online by 2020.
- It is a familiar refrain, and Sierra Club noted in a statement yesterday that the coal plant's closure will be the 266th nationally. The conservation group called on the utility to develop a plan to address on-site pollution concerns and to invest in training for the plant's staff.
- The utility said it intends to find positions for all of the plant's 158 employees at other facilities. Pleasant Prairie has been operating since 1980, and its two units represent 1,200 MW of capacity.
Pleasant Prairie's first unit came online in 1980 and the second in 1985, but after three decades of operation, the coal-fired plant has met the same fate as many others closing in recent years.
“Retiring the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant is one of the ways we’re reducing carbon emissions and reducing those costs for customers,” company spokesperson Amy Jahns told a local Fox affiliate.
Competition from cheap natural gas, and stagnant demand, were cited for the closure.
The Sierra Club issued a statement celebrating the decision, and pointed out that coal plant closures have not abated under President Trump's administration, despite campaign promises to revitalize the industry.
“On the same day that President Trump’s EPA administrator is promising coal’s comeback, Wisconsin’s largest utility is forging ahead with a plan that reduces coal use while betting big on solar," Elizabeth Katt Reinders, a representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.
"This welcome announcement is yet another example of the inevitable shift to safer and more cost effective clean energy," Reinders added.
Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a public comment session in West Virginia, to discuss the agency's plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan, President Obama's signature climate rule. Among coal supporters, it is seen as a major front in the "war on coal."
In announcing the plant closure, We Energies indicated it will find positions for the plant's workers at other facilities. Reinders touched on that promise, saying "it is important that We Energies takes steps to support the communities surrounding the plant, invests in a fair transition for impacted workers, and cleans up pollution at the site as they transition this plant to retirement.”
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, parent company WEC Energy Group's promise to construct 350 MW of solar would make it the largest renewable energy producer in the state.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel We Energies' coal-fired power plant in Pleasant Prairie to be shut down in 2018
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