St. Paul — Clean energy organizations applaud Minnesota Power for announcing plans to cease burning coal at its Taconite Harbor 1 and 2 old coal-burning power plant on Lake Superior’s North Shore near Schroeder, Minn. Minnesota Power will idle the plant in fall 2016 and cease burning coal in 2020.
This long overdue action will address the pollution concerns dozens of local faith, health, youth, conservation, and environmental groups and leaders have raised with the utility and its state regulators over the years. As part of a settlement with Fresh Energy, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Sierra Club, Minnesota Power filed air pollution modelling last week that demonstrated potential ongoing air pollution concerns from the aging Taconite Harbor plant.
“Minnesota Power is making the right decision for Minnesotans, our health and the North Shore,” said Jessica Tritsch, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative. “Minnesota Power should use the 2020 timeline to include a transition plan that benefits the community and workers.”
Minnesota Power is considering replacing the coal units with new solar and natural gas production, as well as improved energy efficiency to cut waste from their system.
“Energy savings are a win-win for Minnesota Power’s customers,” said Leigh Currie, Staff Attorney for Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “It helps lower utility bills for families and businesses while reducing harmful pollution.”
The September 1, 2015 filing of their 15 year energy resource plan will open a discussion at the Public Utilities Commission about what should replace the coal units. While coal prices rise and gas prices remain risky, wind and energy efficiency, and increasingly solar, are proving to be the least cost, best options for new electric generation.
“This is a critical step for Minnesota, but there is more work to be done,” said J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy. “The closure of these units provides the opportunity for state regulators to continue their careful examination of how to transition Minnesota Power’s energy mix to more clean and efficient sources.”