SWEPCO intends to close coal-fired power plants and expand renewable energy capacity

SWEPCO, a utility of American Electric Power (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, recently issued its Integrated Resource Plan, which contained timeframes for coal power plant retirement plans and renewable energy capacity expansions. According to the Sierra Club, though, they aren’t occurring quickly enough.

The Sierra Club criticized several aspects of the plan, notably SWEPCO’s choice to keep the coal-propelled Flint Creek Power Plant running until 2038 without giving a cost-benefit analysis for shutting it down. SWEPCO, on the other hand, withdrew plans to develop a natural gas-fired facility from the draft plan, according to the group.

“SWEPCO’s plan lacks the type of in-depth economic research that could have identified cost savings in retiring coal units and accelerating the deployment of solar resources,” said Josh Smith, a Sierra Club staff attorney. ” It’s regrettable that SWEPCO declined to look into the economics of deactivating Flint Creek sooner and instead expects that customers should foot the bill until 2038.” SWEPCO requires to change direction at Flint Creek as soon as possible to avoid squandering further money from customers. The Sierra Club will call on regulators to cease writing blank checks for SWEPCO’s excessive Flint Creek spending. The great news is that SWEPCO intends to add a significant quantity of wind energy, and we will continue to press the utility to integrate solar and storage resources as quickly as possible.”

“The 516-megawatt facility in Gentry is a crucial component of the Northwest Arkansas electricity grid with continuous modifications that comply with severe federal environmental requirements,” SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main responded. SWEPCO also did a “study to assess the merits of retiring Flint Creek in 2028 against upgrading the facility to meet with modern standards and operating until its initial retirement date of 2038,” according to Main. The study was done in order to support the company’s compliance plans, which were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in November 2020.

“In addition to Flint Creek, SWEPCO’s IRP involves the installation of 4,000 megawatts of the solar energy plus 2,450 megawatts of wind energy in a resource mix that provides affordability and reliability for our consumers,” Main explained.

The Integrated Resource Plan, which must be filed to the Arkansas Public Service Commission after every three years, gives a 20-year energy portfolio outlook. “SWEPCO has chosen a plan that strikes a balance between consumer affordability, rate stability, preserving reliability, and long-term sustainability,” Main added. The report describes how the corporation intends to achieve the four goals over a 20-year planning horizon.

The corporation will require new capacity in the year 2023 as a consequence of the closure of its coal-propelled Pirkey 1 plant, according to the plan. With the projected retirements of SWEPCO’s coal-fired Welsh plant as well as natural gas-fired Wilkes facility in 2028 and 2030, respectively, the demand will grow. In 2028, the Welsh facility will be modified to run on the natural gas and will continue to operate until 2037. SWEPCO decided on December 2 to postpone the planned decommissioning of the natural gas-propelled Lieberman plant units No. 3 and also No. 4 from December of the year 2022 and December of the year 2024 to no later than December 31, 2026.

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