Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pollution Versus Power Wheeling – Ameren Threatens Power Plant Shutdowns

St. Louis based Ameren Corporation is threatening to shut down two of its coal fired Illinois power plants unless the Illinois Pollution Control Board gives Ameren a five year extension on the January 1, 2015 deadline for installing sulfur dioxide scrubbers at those facilities. Pleading poverty, Ameren President Steven Sullivan says, “Current market prices for power simply do not allow further investment in pollution control equipment at this time.” Pointing out that the utility has had eight years notice of the stack gas scrubber installation deadline, Rebecca Stanfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council opposes any extension: “The public shouldn’t have to tolerate another five years of unscrubbed coal pollution or the health consequences that result from operating an ancient plant with last century technology. If it turns out that there are more cost-effective and cleaner ways of meeting our electricity needs, the market will allow those solutions to replace the existing coal fleet.”

While petitioning for the scrubber deadline extension, Ameren is also seeking an additional avenue of relief – removal of power grid barriers that presently prohibit Ameren from wheeling power across the grid to northern Illinois markets where it could get a higher price per kilowatt hour, enabling investment in faster scrubber installation. It remains to be seen whether either solution to Ameren’s capital investment woes will materialize any time soon.
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