No-coal choice saved money
- Published: May 17, 2012
This article was a sidebar in the print edition to an article about wind power in the May 10, 2012 edition of the News.
The Village’s decision five years ago against investing in a 1,600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Illinois may have spared its electric customers from decades of high utility bills.
According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch last week, construction cost overruns at the $5 billion Prairie State Energy Campus will lead to electricity rates at least 25 percent higher than the market for the communities who signed up.
In 2007, Village Council voted 3–2 against purchasing one megawatt of power in a 45-year “take or pay” contract with American Municipal Power that would have required the Village to share the cost of financing the plant’s debt service and operation regardless of its output. Voting for the ordinance were Karen Wintrow and Kathryn Van der Heiden, with Council President Judith Hempfling, John Booth and Lori Askeland voting against.
Hempfling said this week that concerns over climate change and economics prompted the rejection and that the recent news on Prairie State vindicates Council’s decision.
“We were trying to make responsible decisions and realized the fact that these new coal plants are not cheaper, on top of the fact that they’re dirty,” Hempfling said. “It ended up that fiscally it was a good decision, so I am pleased.”
Once complete, Prairie State will be the largest single source of carbon dioxide built in the United States in 25 years, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Later, in 2008, Yellow Springs was the first community to decline to invest in a 1,000-megawatt AMP coal-fired plant in Meigs County. When that project was canceled the following year after construction costs rose 37 percent, participating communities were stuck with development costs. Yellow Springs would have had to pay between $20,000 and $200,000 for its share, according to AMP.
Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, praised Yellow Springs for its decisions.
“It’s very clear that the decisions that Yellow Springs made not to participate in the Meigs County and Prairie State plants paid off both environmentally and clearly economically,” Buchanan said last week.
Previously, Buchanan credited the village with sparking the statewide citizens movement against the Meigs plant. Following Yellow Springs’ decision, the cities of Oberlin and Westerville also rejected proposals to invest.
Hempfling said much of the impetus for Council declining to invest in Prairie State came from village residents.
“It was the Council and citizens saying we could be a model community,” Hempfling said. “The citizens were conscious of these issues and care about them — and Council is reflecting those values.”