NE Coal Plants to Shut Down

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 08:06 AM gHale

The Omaha Public Power District approved a 20-year generation plan that will retire three coal-burning units at the North Omaha Station in 2016, offsetting the loss of power generation with new and expanded efficiency programs.

Emissions controls will end up installed on the remaining two units, and in 2023 they will work on natural gas. That will be key to complying with new limits on carbon dioxide, haze, mercury and other pollutants.

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“This, to me, is a historic moment,” board member Del Weber said. “It’s a transformational time.”

Board member John Green said “it’s more than time” to stop burning coal in north Omaha — in fact, he would prefer the two remaining units convert to natural gas sooner than 2023.

The plan calls for reducing demand for electricity by 300 megawatts over 20 years with new and expanded energy-efficiency measures — for example, a program that gives the utility control of air-conditioning units during peak usage times.

OPPD spent months gathering feedback from stakeholders, narrowing the generation options to five. District managers ultimately recommended a hybrid option that incorporated more savings by managing demand.

Among other things, OPPD is looking at rebates for customers who buy energy-efficient appliances, said Tim Burke, vice president of customer service and public affairs.

Also in 2016, when new federal limits on mercury emissions kick in, OPPD will retrofit one of two coal-fired units at its Nebraska City Station with emissions controls.

The 638-megawatt North Omaha Station came online in 1954. The district’s shift away from coal is a win for environmental and community groups that have ratcheted up pressure on the utility to stop burning fossil fuels.

With 600 megawatts of new wind power, one-third of OPPD’s energy production will come from renewable sources by 2018 and remain at that level through 2033.

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