Judith Humble, a self-described Kentucky resident, thinks the state should transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible given the role fossil fuels play in climate change.
“I hope to see our cities and our state transition to 100% renewable energy over the next decade, with rapid progress over the next 5 years,” she wrote.
It was one of more than a hundred pages of feedback Kentucky utility regulators have received on a 15-year forecast from the state’s largest utility on the future of power generation. electricity in the state.
Lawyers for Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities said they received an unusually high number of comments on the integrated resource plan. Many of them are calling on the company to heed the scientific consensus on climate change and act quickly to avoid its worst impacts.
In response, attorneys for Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities say their plan provides ratepayers with reliable, lower-cost service that makes historic investments in renewable energy. They say many of the public comments fall outside of their obligations under state law.
“As a result, companies believe that many stakeholder comments are not constructive,” according to an answer filed with Kentucky utility regulators.
The public will have the opportunity to comment on the plan in person at a audience held on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, at the headquarters of the Civil Service Commission in Frankfurt. The hearing will also be streamed live on the PSC’s website.
Projects for the future
Last October, LG&E and KU filed their integrated resource plan (IRP) with the Kentucky Public Service Commission. It outlines how the utility intends to meet demand while providing low-cost power at reasonable rates—its primary purpose under state law.
This planning process is taking place at a pivotal moment in human history, according to climatologists. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that humanity must reduce global carbon emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Ignoring the realities of climate change will have devastating effects. In Kentucky, this includes more extreme heat waves, droughts and floods. It even seems to be changing tornado alley further into western Kentucky.
To that end, Kentucky residents have sent in an unusually high number of public comments about LG&E’s plans, like this one from Roxanne Sturtevant, a retired Louisville Public School teacher:
“Please consider the needs of the planet, our infrastructure and the health of our citizens when considering ‘lower cost’ alternatives. Repairing damage caused by extreme storms, pollution and deteriorating public health is extremely expensive and is not factored into the cost-benefit calculation,” she wrote.
As part of integrated resource planning, the Public Service Commission will consider Sturtevant’s comments alongside more official parties who are intervening in the case on behalf of taxpayers. These include Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Sierra Club, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Mountain Association.
LG&E told WFPL News it is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has accelerated its interim targets of reducing carbon emissions by 70% below 2010 levels by 2035 .
But in the integrated resource plan provided to state regulators, LG&E said it would continue to burn coal and natural gas in Kentucky for another three decades, retiring the remaining 11 coal-fired generating units over time. time until it finally closes the last in 2066.
When WFPL News asked for clarification, LG&E spokesman Chris Whelan said the utility was cpledged not to burn coal relentlessly by 2050.
“We mean that unless it can be mitigated with carbon dioxide removal technologies, we will stop burning coal by that date,” Whelan said.
Many utilities are considering using carbon capture technology to remove greenhouse gases from the air as they are emitted, but so far it has not proven to be economically viable.
Even LG&E has moved away from carbon capture research in coal-fired power plants. Instead, Whelan said the utility is focused on research to remove carbon from a natural gas plant in Louisville.
Lawyers say the plans are ‘transformative’
LG&E attorneys say their 15-year plan is both consistent with state best practices and “fully transformative.”
Currently, LG&E and KU generate approximately 97% of their electricity from fossil fuels and approximately 3% from renewable sources, including solar and hydropower. By 2034, the plan would serve ratepayers with 18% utility-wide solar power, based on favorable assumptions about solar pricing and battery storage, the lawyers wrote. .
They have largely dismissed expert opinions and public comments that called on LG&E to do more to meet UN climate goals.
LG&E said it would be expensive to replace renewable resources with power generation from fossil fuels. They argue that because the state does not have favorable conditions for wind and solar, it will actually be cheaper to use fossil fuels.
For example, the utility estimates it will need about 20 megawatts of solar power and six megawatts of battery storage to replace one megawatt of fossil generation.
“A solar, wind, and battery storage portfolio is cheaper than solar and battery storage, but the cost of either renewable portfolio is significantly more expensive than new fossil resources,” the authors wrote. lawyers in comments to the PSC.