Proposed plant too expensive, use of renewable fuels uncertain
MADISON — Alliant Energy’s proposed Cassville coal plant would increase electricity bills and might never burn 20 percent biomass according to Public Service Commission (PSC) staff testimony released on Friday.
“I believe that a new coal-fired generation unit, given today’s construction costs and current and likely fuel costs, is not an optimal choice,” says PSC Senior Economist, Dennis Koepke, in testimony.
“The PSC staff draw similar conclusions as our experts,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director. “It’s time to move past Alliant’s coal plant proposal and find less expensive ways to meet our energy needs.”
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Clean Wisconsin oppose Alliant’s Cassville coal plant proposal as it represents a bad investment for Wisconsin’s economy and environment. CUB and Clean Wisconsin filed testimony on Monday that supports the conclusions of PSC staff that the proposed plant is more expensive than alternatives.
The Madison-based utility has widely advertised that the coal plant would burn 20 percent biomass and be a boon for the local economy. PSC staff, however, question Alliant’s commitment to burn biomass.
PSC expert Ken Rineer notes in testimony that ” …the Commission is being asked to approve a power plant that would burn 10 to 20 percent biomass, and which is being publicized heavily as doing so, without making sure that [Alliant] can do what it says it will do.”
Dennis Koepke’s testimony illustrates the logistical difficulty of burning biomass at the plant where there is no on site storage for such fuels: “My concern is that it will be difficult to support an average 20 percent bio-fuel co-firing of [the plant] when coal or pet coke have fuel inventory on site and biofuels may be delivered in a just-in-time process,” says Koepke in testimony.
In testimony submitted on behalf of Clean Wisconsin and CUB, Synapse Energy Economics notes that “If approved and built, on the day it begins operations, [Alliant’s plant] will be a coal-fired power plant that will burn a combination of Powder River Basin coal and pet coke.”
Pet coke is an abbreviation for petroleum coke, a waste product from oil refineries.
“This coal plant proposal is all smoke and mirrors. It’s not a hybrid plant, not a renewable plant, and certainly not “green” in any way. It’s a very expensive and dirty coal plant that will emit millions of tons of pollutants into Wisconsin’s air, and it should not be built,” said Katie Nekola, energy program director at Clean Wisconsin.
The Public Service Commission will hold public hearings regarding the coal plant proposal in September, and will make their final decision in December.