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New Report: Consumers Would Benefit If Largest Illinois Coal Plant Closes

Prairie State Energy Campus
The Prairie State coal plant. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

On Tuesday, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released its report on the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) coal plant. It finds that closing PSEC and replacing it with clean energy would benefit consumers.

PSEC is the largest coal plant in Illinois and one of the largest contributors to climate change in the U.S. The Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) would close PSEC and the rest of Illinois’ fossil fuel generation by 2030.

PSEC is among the country's newest coal power plants (built-in 2012) and the largest coal plant in Illinois (1624 MW). It has a very unusual ownership structure, where municipal and rural cooperative utilities are part owners of the plant and obligated to purchase energy from it (nearly 400 utilities in all, with 59 in Illinois). The structure of these contracts insulates the plant from market conditions, making it difficult to close without regulatory action.

Key findings from the report:

On economics:

  • “By 2030, closing PSEC and replacing it with a clean energy portfolio … is expected to save ratepayers money without sacrificing reliability.”

  • “Keeping PSEC closure in comprehensive clean energy legislation can help overcome a collective action challenge that may keep PSEC owners from all agreeing to close the plant, and it can also help PSEC owners avoid the increasing liability over long-term coal ash disposal from PSEC.”

On the environment:

  • “In 2019, PSEC emitted greenhouse gasses equivalent to 2.7 million typical passenger cars—more than twice as much CO2 as any other point source in Illinois. In addition to CO2, PSEC emits more methane, SO2, and NOX than any other power plant in the state.”

  • “Contrary to claims that PSEC is more efficient from an emissions perspective than other coal plants, PSEC’s emissions rate is higher than other large coal plants in the state and significantly higher than power produced at natural gas, nuclear, or wind power plants.”

The report’s findings align with studies by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis which found that customers of Prairie State coal plant “pay far above market price for electricity, and the plant has been “a financial disaster” for other communities that buy its power.

Read the RMI report.

This Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) blog post on PSEC heavily references the report.

Summary credit: J.C. Kibby, Illinois Clean Energy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council


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