Study Questions Efficiency, Economic Benefit of Coal Plants

By KBJR News 1

November 13, 2012 Updated Nov 13, 2012 at 6:45 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The 100 page study lists hundreds of coal power plants that the Union of Concerned Scientists says have outlived their life span and can't compete with new, renewable energy sources.

The 353 coal-fired plants represent six percent of total U.S. electricity used in 2009, according to the study.

The study includes nine plants in Wisconsin and six in Minnesota, including Minnesota Power's Laskin Energy Center near Hoyt Lakes.

Click here to view the full study.

Laskin Energy Center went online back in the early 1950s and produces 116 megawatts of energy. Minnesota Power officials say they're keeping up with EPA regulations but also understand the need to reduce the reliance on coal.

"As we look at Laskin Energy Center, and what is the best path forward, we need to balance that decision; we need to balance environmental impact, with also, affordability for our customers and reliability," said Amy Rutledge, manager of cooperate communications at Minnesota Power.

Laskin Energy Center came under scrutiny by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this summer in the face of a changing energy sector.

Minnesota Power is currently looking at options in its own study which is expected to be released early next year.

Environmentalists say ultimately it's important to have a balance of clean and affordable energy but that the environment must be protected as part of the process.

"The fact is if you burn that carbon rich, that nutrient rich of fuel, you're going to have particulates enter the atmosphere," said Ian Kimmer, a member of the environmental group "Friends of the Boundary Waters."

The Federal study echoes the concerns of the group. Kimmer says he understands that the push to start using renewable energy, from retrofitting coal plants to relaying more on wind and hydro power, will result in higher costs for the consumer, but that cost, he says, has to be considered from several angles.

"Will it be paying more to deal with dirty energy, generation and make that clean, or will it be to pay more to diversify energy generation that provides security and cleaner generation."

The new study also points at 288 coal plants that are already slated for closure by the owners in favor of cleaner burning fuel.

Kevin Jacobsen
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