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Comment period open on LG&E’s plans to retire coal, build more gas and solar in Kentucky

The Cane Run Generating Station is a natural gas combined combined cycle power plant in Louisville, Kentucky. It replaced a coal-fired plant at the same site that retired in 2015.
Ryan Van Velzer
The Cane Run Generating Station is a natural gas combined combined cycle power plant in Louisville, Kentucky. It replaced a coal-fired plant at the same site that retired in 2015.

Kentucky’s electric utility regulators at the Public Service Commission are looking for public input on the future of energy generation at Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.

LG&E and KU are asking regulators permission to retire four coal-fired generating units by 2027 and replace them with new sources of electricity.

Between 2024 and 2027, the state’s largest utility plans to retire E.W. Brown Unit 3 in Mercer County, Ghent Unit 2 in Carroll County, and Mill Creek Units 1 and 2 in Jefferson County.

The utility plans to replace that power with two natural gas combined cycle facilities, two solar facilities, battery storage and four agreements to purchase additional solar from other merchants. If approved, LG&E would turn on all that new power by 2028 at a cost of more than $2 billion.

In testimony to regulators from last December, LG&E/KU President John Crockett said the companies are entering a period of “unprecedented change.”

“A lower-carbon future is both challenging and exciting, and the Companies’ proposals in this proceeding are an important step in that direction,” he said in written testimony.

He said several of the coal units they want to retire are nearing the end of their useful economic lives and are no longer cost effective. Others, including Mill Creek unit 2 and Ghent Unit 2, will require upgrades to comply with ozone rules under the EPA’s “Good Neighbor Plan,” which reduces interstate pollution.

“The environmental compliance costs caused by the Good Neighbor Plan regulation now

make retiring those units – rather than continuing to invest in them – in our customers’ best economic interest,” he told regulators.

LG&E and KU’s long term plans would cut coal power by a third by 2030 and would reduce carbon emissions by about 23% compared to 2021 levels.

Even with the retirements, coal would remain the utility’s primary source of electricity, followed by natural gas. The company’s renewable portfolio would increase from less than 1% of total generation capacity to about 9%.

Crockett said so-called “dispatchable” resources such as natural gas and coal would be necessary to keep up with record-breaking economic development in Kentucky and would facilitate the addition of more renewables.

“It is imperative that the Companies have sufficient dispatchable resources that can provide reliable power at a reasonable price to support this economic growth and facilitate the addition of intermittent energy from renewable resources,” he said.

LG&E plans to burn coal after 2050 if carbon capture is proven to be cost effective. However, its own official has testified carbon capture remains an aspirational goal.

Five public informational meetings are planned in Louisville, Lexington, Harlan, and in Hopkins County.

Additional meeting information provided by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet:

In-person meetings:

  1. Monday, July 31, 2023, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time: Frederick Douglass High School, 2000 Winchester Road, Lexington, KY
  2. Thursday, August 3, 2023, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time: Harlan County Judge’s Office, 210 E. Central Street, #111, Harlan, KY
  3. Monday, August 14, 2023, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time/4:30 p.m. Central time: Hopkins County Government Center, 56 N. Main Street, Madisonville, KY
  4. Wednesday, August 16, 2023, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time:  Louisville Free Public Library, Main Branch, 301 York St., Community Room 202, Louisville, KY 

Virtual Meeting:

  1. Tuesday, August 15, 2023, 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.  Directions to participate will be on the PSC website https://psc.ky.gov/prior to August 15, 2023.

The PSC will hold a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday, August 22, 2023, at 9 a.m. Eastern time at 211 Sower Blvd. in Frankfort. Time is available before the hearing begins for public comments. The hearing will be streamed live on the commission’s YouTube channel.

Comments can be submitted at any time at https://psc.ky.gov/Case/SearchCasesPublicComments, emailed to PSC.comment@ky.gov, or by mail to P.O. Box 615, Frankfort, KY 40602-0615. All comments should include the commenter’s name, address and the case number.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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