Fresh Energy applauds the board of directors and management of Great River Energy (GRE) in its decision to cut its losses at the 189-megawatt Stanton Station coal plant and retire it in early 2017. Located near Stanton, North Dakota on the Missouri River, Stanton Station has been a productive GRE asset for 50 years since it began operating in 1966. In Fresh Energy’s intervention at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2015 on GRE’s integrated resource plan, Fresh Energy and its clean energy allies advocated that Stanton Station should be considered for retirement, but GRE and the PUC were not ready to agree.
As recently as 2014, Stanton Station was economic. However, a combination of growing energy efficiency and flat electricity sales for GRE, plus increasing availability of low-cost renewable energy and natural gas in the regional electricity market has steadily eroded the economic viability of the coal plant. The company suffered a big financial loss at Stanton Station in 2015. Management wisely committed to buy more wind and gas power whenever it was available, and reduce operations at Stanton Station, running it as low as 65 megawatts at times. But continuing market pressure from cleaner and cheaper energy sources brought Stanton to the point where it was idled for weeks, resulting in the board’s decision for retirement of the facility.
Coupled with the much larger Coal Creek Station (1100 megawatts), Stanton Station made GRE one of America’s most carbon-intensive electric utilities, and this voluntary decision will boldly reduce the coal generation assets of GRE by 15%. A July 13 report by Ceres and the Bank of America, Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States, ranked GRE’s fossil units as historically America’s eighth most carbon-intensive compared to fossil fleets of all investor-owned, publicly owned and cooperatively owned electric utilities. GRE supplies electricity to customers in North Dakota and to 28 member co-ops in Minnesota. Stanton Station in 2014 emitted more than 1.28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Are you a Great River Energy customer, at home or at your cabin?
Agralite Electric Cooperative, Arrowhead Cooperative, Benco Electric Cooperative, Brown County Rural Electric Association, Connexus Energy, Cooperative Light & Power, Crow Wing Power, Dakota Electric Association, East Central Energy, Federated Rural Electric Association, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, Lake Country Power, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Meeker Cooperative, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, Nobles Cooperative Electric, North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Redwood Electric Cooperative, Runestone Electric Association, South Central Electric Association, Stearns Electric Association, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association
J. Drake Hamilton
Science Policy Director