Thursday, June 21, 2012

Marissa Power Plant Costs And Delays Are Frustrating Municipal Participants

The Prairie State Energy high tech coal fired power plant at 4190 County Highway 12 in Marissa, Illinois was supposed to go on line last January, and provide economically priced electricity to 150 municipal not for profit power utilities across 9 states, annually burning 7 million tons of Illinois coal from the Lively Grove underground mine across the highway, delivered by a continuously operating conveyor elevated above the road. Instead, construction of the plant, designed to power 2.5 million homes with 1,600 megawatts, 95% of which is sold to the participating utilities on a 30 year fixed price, take or pay basis, is six months behind schedule, and 25% over budget. Tri County Electric Coop in southern Illinois is raising customer rates 15% to cover the overruns. Batavia in the Chicago Suburbs has increased electric bills $8.00 to $21.00 a month to pay for its share of the problem.

Kirkwood, Missouri, in suburban St. Louis, has been sending checks to Prairie State Energy for $296,000.00 per month, each of the last six months, and getting no electric power at all in return to sell to Kirkwood families. Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri is in the same bad position. “We’re in almost a million and a half bucks, and we don’t have a dime of revenue. All I can say is, I had other plans for that money,” says Hannibal Board of Public Works Director Bob Stevenson. The cash hemorrhage of these two towns, along with the other municipal participants in Prairie State, will double in August, when the second unit, also six months behind in construction, was originally scheduled to go on line.

Even with the Lively Grove underground coal mine across the road spilling out 7 million tons of coal annually from its 6 foot 8 inch high seams onto three storage piles feeding the conveyor belt above the highway, municipal aggregators which are part owners of Prairie State will continue losing piles of cash once both units are fully operational. That picturesque riverfront town of Hannibal is committed to paying $54 per megawatt hour for electricity from Prairie State, while in today’s market it can sell the electricity for only $40 per megawatt hour or a little less. Hannibal ratepayers’ wallets will continue getting thinner every day for a long time, while the ghosts of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher stand by watching Hannibal’s citizens painting that white picket fence around Tom’s house.

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