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March 3, 2024 6:30 am

Local News

Report examines private-equity power plants, growing risks for communities

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Danielle Smith, Producer

Pennsylvania communities could be hit hard by rising financial uncertainty in the country’s biggest electricity market, according to three new reports.

PJM Interconnection includes Pennsylvania and a dozen other states.

According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, private equity and private capital-owned power plants in the PJM face financial struggles that have recently resulted in shutdowns.

This Report’s Author and Institute Energy Analyst Dennis Wamsted said it reveals that private-equity generators have the ability to close a plant on short notice, leaving communities that are not prepared to deal with the economic fallout from job and tax loss.

“Now is the time for local politicians, county politician, state politicians to be planning for this transition,” said Wamsted. “There are opportunities out there. There is a great deal of federal money now available for transition activities, both for workforce transition and for rebuilding existing facilities.”

Wamsted offered an example of a coal-fired power plant in Homer City, Pennsylvania, which recently closed because of ongoing financial trouble.

He said the Conemaugh and Keystone plants – which are close to Homer City – are facing a serious five-year deadline for some environmental compliance issues for pollution.

Wamsted said it’s important for the state to acknowledge and figure out once plants close what’s the best way to go about reusing and replacing those facilities.

He added that decisions have to be made at the local level with community input and collaborating with help from the plant owners.

“We as a locality can propose to the Department of Energy that we reused this as a solar facility and put in a battery storage unit,” said Wamsted. “And it may not end up with exactly the same number of jobs, but may end up with different skilled jobs.”

Wamsted’s noted that together, the three reports sound the alarm on escalating risks for fossil-fuel plant owners, investors and the latest on communities.

He acknowledged that Pennsylvania’s faces transitional challenges but highlighted that available funding through the Inflation Reduction Act and support is contingent on proactive planning.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.