Climate Change Won't Dictate Future of Coal Plants

Dec 5, 2017

Credit LG&E

Kentucky’s largest electric utility expects to be powered more than 80 percent by natural gas or renewable energy by the middle of this century — regardless of whether the country’s energy policies change.

This report comes as the Trump Administration is weighing the future of the Obama Administration’s carbon dioxide regulations, regulations which Trump’s team has argued will hurt the U.S. coal industry and power generation.

Last month, PPL — the corporation that owns both Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities — released a climate assessment report called for by shareholders. It looks at the Kentucky fleet under three possible scenarios—one is under the current policies, and the other two assume some sort of carbon dioxide regulations.

Assuming a 55-year lifespan for coal-fired power plants, the analysis found approximately 10 percent of LG&E and KU’s fleet would be existing coal plants by 2050. That’s compared with nearly 80 percent today. PPL spokesman Ryan Hill says it’s about economics.

“Just by virtue of that happening, you’re going to have substantial reductions and when you look out to 2050, substantial retirements of our coal-fired units will have happened by then,” said Hill.

That’s even if carbon dioxide regulations like the Clean Power Plan are enacted.

“We have no current plans to build any new coal-fired power plants,” he said. “You’ve seen natural gas prices come down over the past five, six, seven years and that’s really spurred a transition in the generation mix across the country. And certainly we’ve seen that transition begin a bit at our LG&E and Kentucky Utilities companies as well.”

LG&E retired the coal-fired Cane Run plant in Louisville in 2015, and KU recently announced plans to retire two of the three coal units at the E.W. Brown plant near Danville.