Prairie State Generating Company celebrates first year

IMG_0015 Prairie State ShimkusPrairie State Generating Company celebrated its ­inaugural meeting May 2 at the Lively Grove energy campus that includes a state of the art 1,600-megawatt generating facility and coal mine. The ­facility is owned by nine member owners, including Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and Prairie Power, Inc., which are both not-for-profit, ­member-owned Illinois ­generation and transmission ­cooperatives. Six not-for-profit municipal power ­organizations are fellow member-owners.

Rep. John Shimkus (R, IL-15) spoke at the meeting and celebrated the jobs that were created and the national standards set by the ­cleanest and most efficient new coal-fired plant in nation. He said, “During the worst time in the economy people were employed here, and with construction finished we still have long-term, good paying jobs. It helps all my small towns with the multiplying effect and economic development.”

Shimkus recognized the bipartisan support for this project from retired Congressman Jerry Costello.

He said the Prairie State Generating ­facility is an important example for an “all of the above” energy policy that many politicians talk about. A diverse energy source policy includes new sources such as wind and solar but doesn’t exclude clean coal ­generating facilities that are critical to ­supplying dependable, low-cost base load generation.

“Coal is still a major source of energy for our country,” said Shimkus. “We need to make sure that we have a diversified energy portfolio that includes nuclear, coal, hydro, natural gas, wind and solar. This facility continues to highlight the importance of coal as a cheap source of base load electricity generation for this country.”

Shimkus shared that a visit to the facility helped enlighten Chicago-based Senator Mark Kirk on the importance of this downstate facility and the future of coal generation.

The Congressman urged the co-op and ­municipal leaders to continue to ­educate members of Congress and their local consumers about the importance of affordable base load generation. “Most people think you get electricity by putting the plug in the wall,” he said. “They don’t follow the lines. It is just like this in ­agriculture. People think that their food comes from the grocery store. They don’t understand it takes people that plant, harvest, process…that whole chain of food production.”

Highlighting the cost advantage of the new plant, the 2012 annual report showed that even in its first few months of operation the Prairie State Generating plant produced heat energy that cost half that of natural gas even at record low natural gas prices. In 2011 a million BTU of heat cost $5.01 for natural gas, $2.41 for the average coal plant and just $1.95 for the Prairie State facility.

On the environmental side, the facility already exceeds the projected Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) regulations set for 2014. The owners invested $1 billion in the most efficient and effective emission controls available today.