Public comment period begins for LG&E and KU coal plant replacements

WEKU | By Shepherd Snyder

Public comment hearings began Monday evening in Lexington on a proposal from utility company LG&E and KU. It would retire and replace one-third of their coal-fired power plants.

The utility’s proposal would need to be approved by the state Public Service Commission before it goes through with the project. It would replace the coal plants with two natural gas plants, 820 megawatts worth of solar farms and a battery storage facility by 2028.

Natasha Collins is the director of media relations at LG&E and KU. She says the utility’s current proposal is the most cost-effective for its customers.

“This package that we’ve put forward, it’s about $2.1 billion,” Collins said. “But when we take a look at doing something like replacing the generation that we’re retiring with something like all renewables, that would be $2 billion more.”

A fact sheet from the utility says the proposed gas plants would produce 65 percent less carbon emissions than the coal plants designated for retirement.

But many locals who spoke at the first hearing in Lexington say that is not enough, and that the replacement facilities should have more of a focus on green energy.

Lexington citizen Patty Draus worries the construction of the two gas plants will keep the utility from reaching a net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050. That goal was set by the United Nations’ Paris Agreement to stop climate change.

“Gas powered plants were meant to be a transition fuel to get us off of coal burning,” Draus said. “And instead they’re saying this is the fuel for the future. This is not the fuel for the future. This is a dinosaur.”

Other public comment hearings are scheduled in the coming weeks. That includes in-person hearings in Harlan Aug. 3, Madisonville Aug. 14 and Louisville Aug. 16 in the coming weeks. A virtual meeting is also scheduled for Aug. 15.

A final hearing before the Public Service Commission will take place Aug. 22 in Frankfort.

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Photo by Shepherd Snyder, WEKU: Citizens attend a Public Service Commission comment hearing at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington, Ky.

LG&E and KU is a financial supporter of WEKU.

Republished with permission.