Evergy Defers Closure of Coal Plant, Plans to Add Gas Generation

Evergy Inc. has postponed the retirement of its coal operations at the Lawrence Energy Center to 2028, with one unit to be converted to a natural gas facility, the company said in a recent news release.

In April 2021, Evergy said that it would retire the Lawrence Energy Center “within the next three years” and add 700 megawatts (MW) of solar energy as part of a carbon reduction plan that would shut down nearly 1,200 MW of coal-based fossil generation and add 3,200 MW of renewable generation in the next 10 years.

According to its updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Evergy now plans to add 300 MW of solar power in 2026, rather than in 2024 as stated in the previous year’s IRP. The new plan also shows additions of combined-cycle natural gas generation of 781 MW in 2027 and 521 MW in 2028, which were not in the previous update. The combined-cycle natural gas generation additions are hydrogen-capable.

Evergy filed annual updates to its long-term resource plans with both the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Missouri Public Service Commission, in the two states where it has operations. The updates reflect new considerations, including “significant new projects in both Kansas and Missouri, the impacts of increasing electricity demand across the region, and changes in requirements of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP)”, Evergy said.

“The timing of new renewable and other generation resource projects reflected the impacts of global supply chain constraints and the long lead times to receive approval by the SPP to connect new generation projects to the power grid”, Evergy added.

By 2035, Evergy plans to add more than 3,300 MW of renewable energy and retire more than 1,900 MW of coal-based fossil generation, while investing in approximately 1,300 MW of hydrogen-capable advanced combined cycle generation to “maintain reliability for its customers and provide dispatchable generation to complement the ongoing addition of new, cost-effective wind and solar resources”, according to the release.

“Evergy is committed to leading a responsible energy transition while keeping affordability and reliability at the forefront”, Evergy President and CEO David Campbell said.

“Our service area is experiencing some of its most robust electricity demand growth in decades, including very large projects like the Panasonic electric vehicle battery manufacturing factory and the Meta datacenter, as well as broad-based economic development in both Kansas and Missouri”, Campbell said. “Aided by well-coordinated efforts by state and local organizations, these projects are successfully bringing in investment and jobs across our region.”

The environmental group Sierra Club decried the revisions to the plan. “It’s maddening that Evergy said it would close its Lawrence coal plant two years ago, yet here we are with the utility committing to burn fossil fuels at the plant years beyond the original plan”, Nancy Muma, a volunteer with the Wakarusa Group of the Sierra Club’s Kansas Chapter, said in a statement. “That’s not a decision utility leaders make while proclaiming to care about climate change and the cost to its customers.”

Earlier in 2023, Evergy said it solicited bids for potential new generation resources. All potential sources, including renewables, batteries, and hydrogen-enabled natural gas, were included in the request for proposal (RFP), which Evergy said were reflected in the results of the RFP and incorporated into the revised resource plans.

The 2023 filing was the second and final update to Evergy’s 2021 IRP. Missouri and Kansas state regulations require Evergy to create a new resource plan with input from stakeholders every three years. All plans in both states must ensure reliability and focus on affordability, the Kansas City-based company said. Evergy serves 1.7 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.

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