Word came last week that a proposed natural gas-fired power plant in western Kentucky has been canceled. David Greenlee of Bowling Green, KY says the decision is discouraging and that the plant would have brought a substantial number of new jobs to the area.
The plant was proposed for Muhlenberg County and was a joint project of Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric. They had applied to the local Public Service Commission and estimated the project would be a $700 million investment, but the application has now been withdrawn.
Greenlee is an energy consultant who helps companies to achieve maximal efficiency and he had been an advocate of the new plant from the beginning.
He noted that the cancellation is not due to local pressure—in fact, most people in the county were happy to have the new plant. Rather, the decision is strictly for business reasons. Kentucky Utilities received word that they would be losing a number of municipal contracts, as twelve municipal utilities will apparently not be renewing with KU when their contracts are up in 2019.
Since KU now faces a decreased energy demand, it says it cannot justify investing in a new plant.
While that move makes sense from a business perspective, Greenlee says it will wreak havoc on the local economy. Not only would the additional jobs for the new plant have been a major boost on their own, they also would have helped to offset the job loss caused by a different, unrelated coal burning plant closure.
“Those new jobs would not only have made up for the loss of the jobs at the coal plant, they would have left Muhlenberg County with a net gain in terms of employment,” Greenlee said. “Many workers at the coal plant already planned to move to the new gas plant until it was canceled.”
In addition, the investment in the natural gas plant itself would have been substantial. $700 million represents a significant splash for a community like Muhlenberg County, and it’s likely that local construction workers would have found work building the plant.
Still, all is not lost. While the natural gas plant would have been a major victory, KU and Louisville Gas & Electric say they still intend to build a solar plant on the site. The solar plant will be much smaller in terms of investment, power capacity, and number of employees, but it will bring at least a small number of jobs to the area.
“The demand for energy is still out there,” said David Greenlee. “In Bowling Green, KY we see lots of new development and the rest of the area is following suit. Sooner or later, we’ll need a new plant.”