Kansas City Power & Light to shut coal capacity at three plants

Ahead of the first stakeholder conference call regarding its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan filing for Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) announced plans Jan. 20 to stop burning coal at three of its coal-fired power plants.

This announcement furthers the company’s commitment to a sustainable energy future and balanced generation portfolio. Lake Road’s boiler already has the ability to burn natural gas and the company said it plans to operate on natural gas once it ceases coal combustion. In the coming years, KCP&L will make final decisions regarding whether to retire the units at Montrose and Sibley, or convert them to an alternative fuel source.

“After evaluating options for future environmental regulation compliance, ending coal use at these plants is the most cost effective and cleanest option for our customers,” said Terry Bassham, President and CEO of Great Plains Energy and KCP&L, in a Jan. 20 statement. “By retiring or converting more than 700 megawatts of coal-fired generation, we’ll take an even bigger step toward reducing emissions and improving the air quality in our region.”

The decision comes in part as a result from recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, which would require KCP&L to make significant environmental upgrades in the coming years in order to continue burning coal at these power plants. While retrofitting its largest, newer coal-fired power plants was the most cost-effective way to comply with environmental regulations, the same cannot be said for the older, smaller units at Montrose, Lake Road and Sibley.

The timeline for coal cessation is:

  • Lake Road Unit 6, 96 MW, by Dec. 31, 2016;
  • Montrose Unit 1, 170 MW, by Dec. 31, 2016;
  • Sibley Unit 1, 48 MW, by Dec. 31, 2019;
  • Sibley Unit 2, 51 MW, by Dec. 31, 2019;
  • Montrose Unit 2, 164 MW, by Dec. 31, 2021; and
  • Montrose Unit 3, 176 MW, by Dec. 31, 2021.

“For decades, coal has been a reliable, very low cost way to provide power to our customers, and is one reason why our rates are lower than the national average,” said Bassham. “However, as our nation moves to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, our industry is facing increasing environmental scrutiny and regulations, many of which are focused on coal-fired generation. Our commitment and focus is to move to a cleaner energy future for our region while balancing the cost impact to our customers.”

KCP&L noted that it has the largest renewable energy and largest per capita energy efficiency portfolios of any investor-owned utility in the region. In addition, the utility recently made a number of new environmental investments and commitments, including the announcement of up to 400 MW of additional wind power and expanded energy-efficiency programs for customers.

“KCP&L’s transition away from coal and embrace of clean energy is the absolute best path forward for its customers and for clean air,” said Holly Bender, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign, in a Jan. 20 statement. “KCP&L is leading Missouri’s utility sector in its commitment to innovation and steady progress on clean energy. In the process, it is helping to turn Kansas City into a hub of job-creating, clean-tech business development.”

In August 2013, Sierra Club sent a notice of intent to sue KCP&L for more than 8,000 alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company’s coal-fired power plants, alleging particulate pollution at levels that exceed clean air safeguards. The Sierra Club said it and KCP&L have been engaged in discussions around how to resolve the violations.

“We strongly support KCP&L’s announcement today, and its commitment to clean energy growth as a prudent business decision that will bring significant environmental and economic benefits to Missouri,” said Bender.

With KCP&L’s announcement, there has now been – in the past year – 1,922 MW of coal retired or committed to retire by 2022 in Missouri. The Sierra Club noted that the announcement of the phase out of KCP&L’s Montrose coal plant represents the 184th coal plant in the U.S. to retire or announce retirement since 2010.

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.