It is one thing to close old power plants, especially ones that have been fully depreciated and have never been properly upgraded for pollution controls, but it is another to close a plant that is less than a decade old.
This is a mine-mouth power plant. That means the costs of transporting the coal is zero and the coal mining jobs are in Illinois. $1b of the $5b cost was "invested in environmental controls with the Best Available Control Technology (BACT)." [PrairieStateEnergyCampus]
In addition to the usual pollution controls such as sulfur scrubbers, this plant uses "pulverized coal technology, which grinds the coal to the consistency of talcum powder before it’s used as fuel to heat the boiler that produces steam." [PrairieStateEnergyCampus-technology]
"It is the largest coal power plant built in the U.S. since 1982 and provides more than 500 jobs." [ncsl, p3]
The plant produces 15% less CO2 than a typical U.S. coal plant and produces no CO2 transporting the coal to the plant. [ncsl, p8] Combustion residuals are sold as an alternative to Portland cement in concrete. [EnergyNews] Since producing cement produces a lot of CO2, this is another reduction of CO2 production.
This viewgraph was drawn in 2010. Since natural gas is now cheaper than coal because of fracking, the natural gas curve did not go back up. It would be interesting to see a 2020 version of these graphs and to add curves for wind turbines and solar panels.
IEEFA concludes: "Recall that the 1600-megawatt plant was developed by Peabody Energy 10 years ago next to its Lively Grove coal mine. As construction costs rose, Peabody shifted 95 percent of the ownership—and the risk— to eight municipal power agencies, which collectively issued $5 billion in bonds backed by the electric revenues of 200 municipalities in the Midwest and Virginia, many of them induced into signing 50-year contracts. Today the power generated by Prairie State is at least twice as expensive as electricity that could be purchased on the wholesale market." [gem]The pdf I have cited had several viewgraphs showing how their cost for electricity would be below other sources of electricity. I didn't bother to copy them because I figured those viewgraphs were as wrong as their prediction for the price of natural gas. Those slides are another demonstration that just because a slide looks fancy, that does not mean the slide is true.
Now they are talking about adding carbon capture. [EnergyNews] But that has already been tried at least twice in Illinois under the label of FutureGen. Fortunately, both of those attempts failed early in the development cycle so that the amount of money wasted was minimized. A clean-coal plant was built in northeastern Mississippi, but it has cost the customers (rate payers) of that plant a lot of money. If Prairie State already can't generate electricity with a cost below the wholesale rate, adding the cost and complexity of carbon capture is only going to make it less competitive.
“The Prairie State coal plant is like a Venus flytrap,” Kibbey said. “Peabody coal and their friends who developed the plant got all these utilities to sign on with the promise of a sweet deal. By the time the utilities figured out the plant was a disaster, it was too late — they were already trapped in these onerous [50-year] contracts." [EnergyNews]
I haven't read this article because it is too depressing, but I think it is discussing who should eat the stranded assets: Wall Street or electric rate payers. I have not been able to find out why "the power generated by Prairie State is at least twice as expensive as electricity that could be purchased on the wholesale market." [gem] Especially since they are supposed to have the advantage of zero coal transportation costs and 15% more efficient combustion efficiency. Is is because all of that innovative technology keeps breaking? At any rate, using an argument about CO2 is just a face saving way to close a plant that is loosing money.
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A few hours after I wrote the above notes I read a letter to the editor in the June 11, 2021, Chicago Tribune with the title: "The tangled and uncertain future of Prairie State Energy Campus." It was by David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association. The first paragraph is: "Sometimes a bad deal is just a bad deal. And it's not Springfield's job to try to make it right. In fact, it would be a mistake to even try." I sure do hope Illinois taxpayers don't join Wall Street and Prairie State customers in eating the stranded assets of this power plant and coal mine. David explains that the energy plan already has Illinois taxpayers giving $600m to Exelon to keep three nuclear plants running for five more years. Exelon sure got a good ROI for their bribery money. David lists Naperville as one of the towns that bought into Prairie State. I remember reading a while back that Naperville switched to an alternate supplier to get cheaper electricity for its residents. They were bragging about the switch back then. I'll bet they are rather quiet about that decision now.