Another coal-fired plant is closing. WEC Energy Group Inc (NYSE:WEC), the parent of Wisconsin utility We Energies, announced that it is closing its Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, a 1,200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired plant in Wisconsin.
The Kenosha County facility, which was once Wisconsin’s largest coal-fired producer of electricity, employs more than 150. The Pleasant Prairie Power Plant uses around 13,000 tons of coal daily and, when fully operational, can provide electricity to around one million homes.
The closure did not come out of the blue. We Energies temporarily closed the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant for a few months this past spring, when energy demand declined. By the summer of 2018, though, the coal-fired plant will be closed permanently.
Amy Jahns, a spokesperson for We Energies, confirms what most already know when it comes to the energy market: that it has changed. “Such as sustained low natural gas prices,” she said. “There’s also been a dramatic reduction in the cost of renewable energy, especially utility-scale solar. And there’s been limited to no growth in electricity demand over the last few years.”
As a sign of the times, We Energies also said it will build 350 MW of solar power by 2020. The company did not have specific details on the development of the plan.
Elizabeth Ward of the Sierra Club noted that the closure is part of a national trend. “It’s the 266th coal plant to be announced for retirement, and that has been sort of a steady pattern we’ve seen,” she said. “It’s continued this year, regardless of some of the rhetoric that’s been stated about coal coming back. It kind of shows that’s unlikely, and this transition will keep happening.”
Many coal-fired plants in the U.S. have announced closures and layoff in 2017. In October, Luminant announced plans to retire the Monticello Power Plant, in Titus County, Texas. Approximately 1,880 MW of power will be taken offline when Monticello closes permanently on January 4, 2018. The move will leave 200 out of work.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP), one of the country’s biggest coal-burning utilities, is building a $4.5-billion wind farm in Oklahoma; PacifiCorp (OTCMKTS:PPWLO) is pulling back on coal-fired power plants and upgrading its wind fleet; and DTE Energy Co (NYSE:DTE) announced plans to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by more than 80% by 2050. To get there, the company will need to retire all of its coal-fired plants and switch to natural gas and wind.
Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to end the war on coal, the fact is the energy market is changing and moving away from coal-fired to renewable, cleaner sources. This will result in more coal-fired plant closures in 2018 and subsequent layoffs.
“We Energies Closing Coal-Fired Plant In Pleasant Prairie,” Wisconsin Public Radio, November 29, 2017.
“Pleasant Prairie Power Plant,” We Energies, December 2012.
“We Energies’ coal-fired power plant in Pleasant Prairie to be shut down in 2018,” Journal Sentinel, November 28, 2017.