Is this any place to build a power plant?  The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly says NO!  And it’s based on economic reasons, the IPPs that they’dapproached about building the plant were “non-responsive.”  Sounds dead to me!

MEA to shelve coal plan for at least five years
ALTERNATIVES: Costs, critics pushed utility to look at options.


(Published: November 10, 2007)

WASILLA — Matanuska Electric Association is shelving plans to build a coal-fired power plant south of Palmer, citing “anti-local-power sentiments” held by local elected officials and a spike in costs related to building coal-fired plants.

A law passed by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly in August that regulates new power plants, as well as demand for coal-generated power in China and other less-strictly regulated countries are to blame, according to MEA general manager Wayne Carmony.

“Until problems with the borough’s ordinance can be addressed and recent spikes in world coal plant prices stabilize, it is imprudent to proceed with construction of the coal portion” of the Integrated Resource Plan adopted by MEA earlier this year, Carmony wrote by e-mail Friday to the MEA board of directors.

The plan details how the Palmer-based electric cooperative would build two, 100-megawatt power plants, one fired by coal for base power and another by natural gas for peak demand.

Carmony in his e-mail said he would ask the board in December to delay building the coal-fired plant for at least five years. He would also present alternatives to building a coal plant.

That’s great news, said Jim Sykes, leader of MEA watchdog group UtilityWatch.

“If they set it aside for five years, it’s dead. The economics of a coal plant are not going to get better in five years,” Sykes said. “That was the first thing they needed to realize, that their proposal for a coal plant was a dog.”

MEA board member David Dahms called Friday “a sad day for science and economics.”

He blamed Friends of Mat-Su, a local pro-planning group, and The Sierra Club for organizing opposition in April to the coal-fired plant. Without that plant to provide electricity, consumer costs will rise as the supply of natural gas in Cook Inlet dwindles, Dahms said.

“I would suggest that every member of our co-op send their electrical bills to Friends of Mat-Su and Sierra Club in 10 years when they can’t afford to pay their electric bills,” Dahms said.

MEA spokeswoman Lorali Carter said the international market for coal power was part of the MEA decision to drop its coal plans for now.

Independent power producers, with whom MEA discussed plans to build and operate the two new plants, were “non-responsive,” Carter said. She said confidentiality agreements prevent her from identifying the power producers MEA spoke with.

“If they can go to China and build a 1,000-megawatt coal plant, the economies of scale are far greater than building that plant here,” Carter said.

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