PLEASANT PRAIRIE — We Energies has announced that, during the second quarter of 2018, it will close its coal-fired power plant in Pleasant Prairie.
The utility said it has decided to shutter the plant due to “the economy of energy and market and customer demand,” We Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said Wednesday.
Contributing factors include the low price of natural gas and the decreasing cost of renewable energy, she said.
We Energies is planning to reshape its power generation portfolio, Jahns said, in an effort to reduce both the cost of supplying power and carbon-dioxide emissions.
The Pleasant Prairie plant, which has been open for 37 years, employs 158 people. Jahns said the company will work with labor unions to try to find jobs within the company for those employees.
We Energies provides energy to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator market which manages and regulates the flow of energy to customers from various generation sources.
“We have an adequate supply of energy,” Jahns said.
Although We Energies doesn’t have specific plans for the future of the power plant site in Pleasant Prairie, it does plan to remove the buildings and equipment there.
Cutting greenhouse gases
We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service — both a part of WEC Energy Group — have the joint goal of cutting carbon-dioxide emissions to 40 percent below the 2005 level by 2030.
The closing of the Pleasant Prairie power plant will play a significant role in that, as the plant emits about 7.5 million tons of carbon-dioxide annually. However, some of the reduction in emissions from the plant will be replaced with an increases in natural gas emissions.
We Energies has already reduced its carbon emissions more than 20 percent since 2005. It also has plans to invest in natural gas and renewable energy, Jahns said.
In a press release about the power plant closure announcement, the Sierra Club of Wisconsin praised We Energies’ move toward cleaner energy production.
“This welcome announcement is yet another example of the inevitable shift to safer and more cost-effective clean energy, and highlights why Wisconsin needs a proactive plan to shift to clean energy and invest in the people impacted,” stated Elizabeth Katt Reinders, campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
“It is important that We Energies takes steps to support the communities surrounding the plant, invests in a fair transition for impacted workers, and cleans up pollution at the site as they transition this plant to retirement, Reinders added.
We Energies has another coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek in Milwaukee County and a generation station in Paris in Kenosha County.
“Our Oak Creek Power Plant is one of the cleanest and most-efficient coal plants in the country,” We Energies stated previously. “We have taken several steps to minimize and suppress coal dust at the site, including upgrading water-suppression technology, installing video monitoring, improving wind breaks, and using foam and other crusting agents on our coal.”