Prairie State Costs Consumers $$$

Yesterday RMI released its (long-awaited) report on the Prairie State Energy Campus coal plant! It finds, in short, that closing Prairie State and replacing it with clean energy would benefit consumers.

Prairie State is the largest coal plant in Illinois and one of the largest contributors to climate change in the U.S. CEJA would close Prairie State along with the rest of Illinois’ fossil fuel generation, but we have our work cut out for us to demonstrate to some skeptical policymakers that closing the plant is a good decision not only for our climate, but for consumers. This report is a key step in that direction.

You can read the report in full here:

For reference, Prairie State Energy Campus (“PSEC”) is among the newest coal power plants in the country (built in 2012), and the largest coal plant in Illinois (1624 MW). It has a very unusual ownership structure, where municipal and rural cooperative utilities are part owners of the plant and obligated to purchase energy from it (nearly 400 utilities in all, with 59 in Illinois). The structure of these contracts insulates the plant from market conditions, making it difficult to close without regulatory action.

Key findings from the report are below, added emphasis is mine:

  • On economics:
    • “By 2030, closing PSEC and replacing it with a clean energy portfolio … is expected to save ratepayers money without sacrificing reliability.”
    • “Keeping PSEC closure in comprehensive clean energy legislation can help overcome a collective action challenge that may keep PSEC owners from all agreeing to close the plant, and it can also help PSEC owners avoid the increasing liability over long-term coal ash disposal from PSEC.”
  • On the environment:
    • “In 2019, PSEC emitted greenhouse gasses equivalent to 2.7 million typical passenger cars—more than twice as much CO2 as any other point source in Illinois. In addition to CO2, PSEC emits more methane, SO2, and NOX than any other power plant in the state.”
    • “Contrary to claims that PSEC is more efficient from an emissions perspective than other coal plants, PSEC’s emissions rate is higher than other large coal plants in the state and significantly higher than power produced at natural gas, nuclear, or wind power plants.”

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