Minnesota Power today filed additional comments with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) on its Baseload Diversification Study (BDS) that was conducted as part of its long range planning process, a process that will culminate with the Company’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan.
The BDS, filed in February, was the first of its kind in the state and is one of multiple planning considerations the company is using to determine what its generation mix will be in the coming decades. The BDS provided a broad overview of cost and reliability impacts of potential retirement, replacement or retrofitting of Minnesota Power’s smaller coal-fueled units to meet changing environmental standards.
“We value the comments and input received from various stakeholders on the Study,” said Al Rudeck, vice president of strategy and planning. “Community input is a critical part of our integrated and dynamic planning process.”
A significant portion of stakeholder comments were about the future of Minnesota Power’s coal fired generating plants, including Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes, Minn. and Taconite Harbor Energy Center in Schroeder, Minn. The company said in its comments filed today that to shut down units without a thorough and systematic analysis could put customers at unnecessary risk of higher rates and potential service reliability impacts and have a negative socio-economic effect on host communities.
The company acknowledged that while the BDS provided an advance look at a small part of the company’s 2013 resource plan, it also points to issues that require a deeper analysis to fully understand impacts and make decisions in the best interests of northern Minnesota’s electric customers. Weighing the decisions of installing further environmental controls against closing down units while factoring in the costs of replacing generation, future fuel prices and increased industrial energy loads takes detailed long-range planning.
“We’ve already decided that wind, water and wood renewables and natural gas will play a greater role in our energy mix and already have reduced some coal resources, but before we decide exactly what further changes may look like, we need more insight than what was provided by this Study,” Rudeck said. “Safety, reliability, affordability and the availability of different types of electric power generation are all important parts of that decision.”