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Study: Solar Can Fill Gap in Dynegy Coal Plant Closures

According to one estimate, closing eight downstate coal plants would save Illinoisans a total of up to $14 billion on electricity between 2018 and 2030. (Pixabay)
According to one estimate, closing eight downstate coal plants would save Illinoisans a total of up to $14 billion on electricity between 2018 and 2030. (Pixabay)
May 22, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – If Dynegy Energy closes its eight coal-fired power plants in downstate Illinois, all will be fine - and better for the environment - according to a new study commissioned by environmental groups. Even after its merger with Texas-based Vistra Energy, the power company has been petitioning lawmakers and regulators to help keep its eight coal plants in Southern and Central Illinois in business.

But, environmental groups argue that since the state is an exporter of energy, there won't be any reliability issues if those plants go offline.

Rachel Fakhry is an energy policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She says replacing the coal plants with solar and wind energy projects would help save Illinoisans money.

"And it would save a total of up to $14 billion on electricity between 2018 and 2030, again that's because the wind and solar projects are significantly cheaper than those Dynegy coal plants," she notes.

Dynegy has blamed bad grid designs and state subsidies offered to nuclear plants for making it difficult to maintain current operations. They've warned some of its plants could close if lawmakers don't help.

Fakhry says the state, particularly in Southern Illinois, has a lot of energy generating capacity with a lot of plants that could be increased and run more from gas and nuclear. And she says they can also be bolstered by large-scale solar projects.

"Let's say all of the Dynegy plants are taken offline by 2020, the state could easily reduce its exports to make internal electricity demands," she says.

The study was commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

A Vistra spokesperson said they are currently reviewing the assets they've acquired from Dynegy and are not yet ready to comment on the report.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - IL