Alabama Power plant to close in spring due to environmental mandates
Published 10:50 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019
After more than a century of providing safe, reliable, affordable electricity to customers, Plant Gorgas is closing because of costly, federally driven environmental mandates.
Government regulations related to the handling of coal ash and wastewater are the main cause behind Alabama Power’s decision to close Plant Gorgas, said Jim Heilbron, the company’s senior vice president and senior production officer.
“We recognize that Plant Gorgas and the men and women who have operated it have brought great value to Alabama Power, our customers and the local community,” Heilbron added.
The company estimates it would cost approximately $300 million to comply with the latest round of environmental mandates and continue operating the plant’s three coal-fired generating units.
“We are also concerned that more regulations are on the horizon that could require additional, costly expenditures at the plant,” Heilbron said.
Plant Gorgas has gone through many changes since its first generating unit began operating in 1917. That original unit has long been retired, but the plant has provided reliable electricity to Alabama Power customers since its inception. Plant Gorgas will officially close April 15.
Environmental mandates force retirement of Plant Gorgas
The closing of Plant Gorgas will not affect the company’s ability to provide reliable service to customers. Alabama Power and its employees will continue to be a part of, and involved in, supporting the local community.
Federally driven environmental mandates related to coal, and the costs to comply with those mandates, are changing the way Alabama Power provides electricity to customers. Since 2015, these cost pressures have caused the company to reduce its coal-fired generating units from 23 to 10. After Plant Gorgas is retired, the company will have seven coal-fired units remaining, at three power plants. Prior coal unit reductions have been accomplished either through retirements or by converting units to natural gas.
Using a diversity of fuels provides Alabama Power the flexibility to switch fuel sources and protect customers in a volatile energy market.
“Alabama Power is focused on providing our customers reliable, affordable electricity while protecting the environment we all share,” Heilbron said. He added that the company continuously examines its generating fleet and fuel mix to determine the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of customers, while meeting all government requirements.