Georgia Power plans to close Plant Kraft in Port Wentworth in 2016 as part of a statewide strategy to decommission cost-prohibitive coal and oil-fired power generation stations, the utility announced Monday.
Plant Kraft includes three coal-fired units and one oil-fired generator. Georgia Power will also retire two locally-based combustion turbine generators, as well as both units at Plant McManus in Brunswick.
The closures will impact 85 workers at Plant Kraft and 25 at Plant McManus, although the utility does not anticipate layoffs.
“No one will lose his or her job,” Georgia Power spokeswoman Swann Seiler said. “We will manage the workforce over the next few years through attrition, transfers and relocations.”
Georgia Power will request approval to shutter Plants Kraft and McManus, as well as units in Putnam and Coweta counties from the Public Service Commission later this month. The Public Service Commission is expected to vote on Georgia Power’s request this summer.
The 15 units scheduled for decommission together generate 2,061 megawatts. Georgia Power will replace that energy through other coal plants, hydroelectricity and nuclear power. The new reactors at Plant Vogtle are schedule to begin operations in 2017.
“We are in the midst of a significant transition in our fleet that will result in a more diverse fuel portfolio — including nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency — to ensure we maintain our commitment for generations to come,” Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers said in a prepared statement.
All the units except those at Plant Kraft will be retired in April 2015 ahead of the effective date of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Georgia Power will request a one-year extension of the rule’s compliance date to keep Plant Kraft online through April 2016 because of maintenance and upgrades planned for the area, Seiler said.
Those coal-fired units around the state not slated for retirement are being fitted with environmental controls to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics rule.
Georgia Power’s move to retire the fossil-fuel plants was not unanticipated. The utility files plans addressing its approach to providing reliable and economically efficient power with the Public Service Commission every three years. The latest version of that strategy is due Jan. 31.
Additonally, Plant Kraft was among Georgia's seven coal-fired plants singled out by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy as too dirty and costly to continue operating. Kraft’s three coal-fired generators came online from 1958 to 1965 and have none of the four pollution control retrofits deemed essential for ongoing environmental compliance.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy welcomed Monday’s announcement.
“This is a good day for Georgia citizens and the air they breathe, particularly on the coast in Savannah,” said the Alliance’s Executive Director Stephen Smith. “While Georgia Power is not acknowledging they’re doing this because of climate change, it’s a good down payment for reducing carbon because coal is the most carbon-intensive way to generate electricity.”
Smith did question Georgia Power’s decision to keep Plant Kraft online for the additional year beyond the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule compliance date. He said the utility could have met the deadline if it had spent less time fighting the rule.
“I don’t want say that’s unreasonable,” Smith said of the scheduled shutdown. “I think, though, in actuality it’s a reflection that if they hadn’t spent so much time fighting the regulations and EPA and spent more time engineering and accepting it was the right move for ratepayers and the environment, they could’ve been on schedule.”
Plant Kraft has been in operation since 1958. The plant is located on the banks of the Savannah River near Port Wentworth’s city center. Word that the plant would close disappointed Port Wentworth Mayor Glenn Jones, although he’d heard from friends and constituents that the “writing had been on the wall” for some time.
Jones acknowledged concerns that the plant closing would impact the local economy, particularly eateries and other service-oriented businesses.
“Any time you lose people working in your city to work somewhere else the small businesses may hurt some,” Jones said. “But the bigger issue at this point is that the people who have jobs there will always have a job. That’s a relief.”