Minnesota PUC approves Minnesota Power’s coal-lite resource plan

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Sept. 25 approved a Minnesota Power resource plan that includes a diminished but still major role in the company’s portfolio for coal-fired generation.

Minnesota Power said on Sept. 26 that it approved 2013 resource plan relies on a diversified energy mix while preserving reliability and protecting affordability. Minnesota Power is an operating division of ALLETE Inc. (NYSE: ALE).

The utility’s resource plan recommended specific actions on its coal generation fleet to comply with state and federal environmental regulations, the addition of new renewable resources in the short term and a significant natural gas addition early in the next decade to further diversify its power supply and reduce carbon emissions.

The approved plan is based on its EnergyForward resource strategy. Among other things, this program transitions the company’s energy supply mix toward one-third renewables, one-third coal and one-third natural gas and other market resources long term through hydro and wind energy additions, coal-fired energy reductions and a post-2020 natural gas generation resource. The company plans to add 200-250 MW of natural gas combined cycle generation after 2020.

“We’re pleased with the commission’s decision approving our plan for Minnesota Power to continue diversifying its energy mix in a balanced way that helps ensure reasonable cost and reliability along with increased environmental stewardship,” said Alan Hodnik, president, chairman and CEO of ALLETE. “Electric power needs to be affordable for customers and cleaner for the environment, and that’s why key steps such as retrofitting the workhorse of our generation fleet to reduce emissions, adding more, lower cost renewables and sustaining our strong energy conservation programs are so important.”

The company filed its biennial integrated resource plan with the commission on March 1. The commission-approved plan includes the following components:

  • The addition of 200 MW of wind to Minnesota Power’s system, which the company is proposing to meet through its recently-announced Bison 4 project near New Salem, N.D.
  • Delivery of 250 MW of hydropower under contract from Manitoba Hydro by 2020, with Minnesota Power planning to deliver this energy on its proposed 500-kV Great Northern Transmission Line.
  • Reduction of coal-fired generation on its fleet by 185 MW through the conversion of Laskin Energy Center to a natural gas peaking station and the retirement of one of three units at Taconite Harbor Energy Center.
  • Environmental retrofit of the company’s newest and largest generating unit, the coal-fired Boswell Unit 4.
  • Continuation and enhancement of the company’s leading-edge Power of One conservation program to meet or exceed state conservation goals of 1.5 percent.

In a separate action, the Minnesota commission also approved Minnesota Power’s proposal to invest $350m in additional environmental control technology at Boswell Unit 4. The project would reduce mercury emissions by 90%, limit other emissions and is necessary to comply with the Minnesota Mercury Emission Reduction Act and the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Alstom said Aug. 29 that it has won a new contract to deliver an emission control system for Unit 4 at Boswell. Once installed on the 585-MW unit, Alstom’s NID semi-dry flue gas desulfurization system will cut mercury emissions by 90% and significantly curb emissions of SO2 and other pollutants.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.