Another Florida Coal Plant to Go the Way of the Dinosaurs

This blog was written by Amelia Shenstone, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | May 7, 2019 | Coal, Florida
C.D. McIntosh plant in Lakeland, FL

Lakeland Electric has officially proposed the closure of the 364 megawatt Unit 3 at the C.D. McIntosh generating station to the Lakeland City Council. The closure is due to rising maintenance costs as the coal-fired boiler nears 40 years in operation. Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) owns 40% of the coal-fired unit. Several other small coal-fired generators in Florida have closed for similar reasons in recent years.

In its place, Lakeland will consider tripling its solar commitment from 15MW to 45MW, and building a new gas-fired generator. Such a solar commitment would bring the utility from 161 watts per customer to 430 watts per customer by 2022, bumping them up in state rankings of utilities, although still leaving the utility below the state’s average amount of solar per customer (currently projected at 626w/customer by SACE’s 2018 Solar in the Southeast report).

Amelia Shenstone and IEEFA’s David Schlissel release a report on the failing finances of McIntosh Unit 3 in 2015 along with Sierra Club volunteers, outside Lakeland City Hall

SACE and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released a report in 2015 entitled, “The Time is Right to Retire McIntosh Unit 3,” which concluded that capital costs at the plant had increased and were likely to continue to do so, energy efficiency and solar could assist the utility in taking the plant offline, and that retiring the plant would have no adverse effect on the utility grid.

In response to the retirement recommendation, SACE Florida Director Susan Glickman stated,

“We support Manager Ivy’s recommendation to close down McIntosh Unit 3 before it becomes an even greater burden to families and businesses. We urge Lakeland decision-makers to continue to grow their innovative leadership on energy efficiency and hope they see an additional 30MW of solar as a start, not an end. Finally, we caution utility leaders not to over-invest in new gas-fired capacity that would prolong dependence on fossil fuels with costs that are hard to control, or so-called Small Modular Reactors, an untested and likely very expensive nuclear pipe dream.”

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