The Missouri Public Service Commission voted to allow Liberty Utilities - Empire District Electric to move forward with various regulatory measures to add wind energy to its sources of power.A switch by Empire district to wind power generation means closing the Asbury power plant.
Asbury is a coal burning plant and is now slated for closure by April of 2019. Officials say new EPA regulations would have forced the company to add a new landfill and other equipment by 2019 at a cost of twenty-five million dollars.
Empire says creating its own wind energy will bring a cost savings of one hundred fifty to three hundred million dollars. That translates to about ten dollars a month for customers beginning in 2020.
About fifty-five workers at the Asbury plant will be impacted. Vice President of Operations at Empire district Blake Mertens said, " We're working with employees out there to make it a smooth transition, whether it’s providing them training opportunities, allowing them to bid other jobs in the company, and over the years there will be normal attrition."
Wind turbine jobs are more technical than the coal plant and some other jobs might force workers to move.
The president and business manager with IBEW local 1474 which represents the Asbury plant workers said quote, “We are disappointed they determined they're going to close it now. We have service centers from the Branson area up to the Bolivar area. If they bid into one of those lineman type jobs, we do have a living requirement on those jobs for response times."
Empire filed plans with regulatory commissions in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma to add eight hundred megawatts of wind-generated energy.
It currently has lease options on forty thousand acres of properties in southwest Missouri to create several wind farms resulting in cost savings of up to three hundred million dollars for customers.
For residential customers that would be about ten dollars a month in savings, starting in 2020.
Mertens said the Asbury plant was modified in 2015 to comply with new air regulations when wind power wasn't the economic value it is now. He explained, “In order to do that we had to start planning back in 2010 and 2010 natural gas prices were double to triple what they are today and wind energy was double to triple what they are today. With these drastic changes in the market, we’ve decided to re-look at our generation portfolio and find the best solution for our customers going forward.”
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