KY utility regulators' 'mixed' decision on LG&E proposal
Monday, November 20, 2023
Critics say the latest decision from state regulators on Louisville Gas and Electric's proposal to build two new gas plants and cycle out two aging coal plants is a "mixed bag" decision, with potentially costly consequences for ratepayers.
The proposed gas plant in Mercer County was denied, but a proposal to build another one in West Louisville received a green light.
Andy McDonald, director of Apogee Climate and Energy Transitions, said while there are still more regulatory and permitting hurdles for the approved plant, its construction and operation will likely be paid for by customers in the form of higher bills, amid an uncertain future for natural gas.
"We're unhappy that one of the gas plants got approved, because it's at risk of becoming a 'stranded asset' at some point in the future," McDonald explained. "Which is a resource that may become so costly that they can't operate it, but the ratepayers will be stuck with the cost anyway."
This year, Kentucky lawmakers approved Senate Bill 4, which mandates that utilities prove they can maintain grid reliability and energy affordability before retiring coal plants. In a statement, the company said its plan is aimed at serving customers safely and reliably.
The commission also approved retiring three small gas plants and approved all the company's solar and battery proposals.
Chris Woolery, program manager for the Mountain Association, said the commission validated solar and battery technologies will be needed in the years to come, as the transition away from fossil fuel-powered plants continues. He added now is the time for Kentuckians to get involved in critical decisions affecting the state's future energy resources.
"I think it really is a mixed decision that puts the ball back in our court, as advocates and the public," Woolery noted.
According to federal data, more states are putting to bed their aging coal-fired power plants built in the 1970s and '80s, as well as gas plants. A 2022 report found more than 275 natural gas plants are scheduled for retirement across the U.S.
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