Sierra Club: Illinois municipal under pressure over coal plant costs

The Sierra Club said Sept. 22 that Springfield, Illinois, citizens have delivered petitions to the Springfield City Council to demand a more open, transparent public process for City Water Light & Power (CWLP).

The club said that citizens have repeatedly called for City Council action after years of financial turmoil and rate increases from CWLP. The environmental group said that much of the CWLP’s financial woes can be tied to its continued operation of aging units at its Dallman coal-fired power plant. A 2015 study by Synapse Energy & Economics showed that operating Dallman Units 1 and 2 lost the city at least $41 million in the 2008-2013 period alone. Synapse also found that the running the two units would lose at least $40 million over the next 20 years.

The club added that citizens decided to speak out after a series of recent major financial decisions made by the Springfield City Council without public input. For example, in July the City Council voted to move forward with the Hunter Lake project, with a proposed cost to residents of $110 million dollars and a water rate increase of 50 percent. The City Council ignored requests from residents to have a public process or a referendum vote on the issue. In the petitions, citizens envisioned a public process with CWLP that would include oversight committees and information sessions.

Said the CWLP website about the proposed rate changes: “The rate restructuring is part of a larger solution for a more stable revenue stream to the utility. Electric Rate revenue will vary less through the year as compared to the current structure that allows for the utility to only see high revenues after peak, ‘air conditioning’ season followed by low revenue periods when temperatures are milder. Reducing major contract expenses, such as the price of coal, and refunding Electric Fund debt are other components of rate restructuring, which the utility is also working on to improve the its cash position while keeping bills lower.”

The first Dallman unit placed on line was Unit 1, with a maximum nameplate capacity of 86 MW. It was followed by Dallman Unit 2, with a nameplate rating of 87 MW. In 1978, the completion of Dallman Unit 3, which has a maximum nameplate capacity of 199 MW, more than doubled the power station’s total generating capacity. The relatively new Dallman Unit 4 has a maximum capacity of 200 MW.

In 2014, the four Dallman generators used 1,251,473 tons of coal, 567,244 gallons of oil, and 519,580 dekatherms of natural gas, all of which cost $60,622,126, to generate 2,344,681.13 MWH of electricity, said the CWLP website.

Particulate emissions from all four units are controlled by electrostatic precipitators. In addition, Dallman 4 utilizes a fabric filter bag house to aid in particulate emission control. In addition, the four units are equipped with flue gas desulfurization systems to control SO2 emissions. Each unit is also equipped with selective catalytic reduction systems for NOx control.

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.