Owensboro Municipal Utilities is switching to a different source of energy after more than 100 years of burning coal.
There’s a lot of talk - and hope - among some Kentucky residents that coal will make a comeback. But Owensboro Municipal Utilities says it’s seen the writing on the wall and coal will be completely phased over the next six years.
Sonya Dixon is a spokeswoman for OMU.
“This is a monumental change in the way that OMU has done business. You know, we have burned coal for the last 117 years and obviously, this is a shift, but we feel it’s a positive one in the best interest of our customers.”
Dixon says one factor in the decision is the age of the city’s Elmer Smith generating station. It is the only power station for the city and it has two coal-burning units that went online in 1964 and 1974. One unit will be shut down by 2019 and the second by 2023.
An impending $37 million cost for the coal-fired plant to meet environmental regulations is another reason OMU decided to retire the Elmer Smith station.
After in-depth studies, the Owensboro utility says coal is not the most cost-efficient way to generate power for its 26,000 residential and commercial customers.
A dramatic market force is the lower price of natural gas. For that reason, the utility is considering options for future power that are mainly focused on natural gas.
Dixon said the utility is examining the best option for a new source of energy.
“As for OMU’s future, we have not determined what our source of power will be. We have lots of options before us, one of which could be the construction of a gas-fired plant at the Elmer Smith station. We could participate in other gas stations being built elsewhere.”
Dixon says the utility will continue to consider solar and other renewables as possible energy sources for the future.