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Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities asking for renewable energy proposals

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Ryan Van Velzer
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Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are planning to retire around a dozen aging and outdated coal and natural gas generating units over the next 15 years, according to their Integrated Resource Plan.

Now the utility companies that serve more than 1.3 million customers across Kentucky and Virginia are looking to diversify their energy sources.

LG&E and KU are requesting proposals from energy providers to begin adding capacity to the grid in 2025. In order to be considered, businesses need to be able to produce at least 100 megawatts of capacity and must prove the power is reliable, feasible and least-cost as defined by Kentucky utility regulators.

“Pending EPA regulations combined with some of our coal-fired generating units reaching the end of their useful lives necessitates that we seek newer and cleaner sources of energy to provide safe, reliable service to customers in the future,” David Sinclair, LG&E’s vice president of energy supply and analysis, said in a statement.

Sinclair, who previously declined to acknowledge the existence of manmade climate change, said ratepayers are increasingly concerned about the impacts of global warming. LG&E thinks it’s important to meet future energy needs using “cleaner, lower carbon dioxide-emitting technology,” he said.

Sinclair’s comments come just a few weeks after LG&E attorneys told state regulators they’ve received an unusually high number of comments on its integrated resource plan, which forecasts the utility’s energy needs for the next 15 years.

Many of the comments demanded the utility do more to act on climate change. The attorneys described the comments as “not constructive” because they fall outside LG&E’s obligations under state law.

While the utilities’ request encourages renewables, the request-for-proposals is open to other sources of generation including climate-warming fossil fuels.

Coal power will still represent about half of LG&E and KU’s energy mix in 2036, but LG&E and KU plan on achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with reduction targets of 70% from 2010 levels by 2035 and 80% by 2040.

The utility companies have said that they don’t plan to retire the last coal-fired plant in Kentucky until 2066. But a spokesperson for LG&E said the utilities will stop burning coal by 2050 unless it can “be mitigated with carbon dioxide removal technologies.”

At the same time, LG&E has pivoted away from researching carbon capture at coal-fired power plants. Instead, Whelan said the utility is shifting focus to research removing carbon from a natural gas plant in Louisville.