Friday, March 06, 2009

Investor-owned utility won't build Iowa coal plant

Construction of a coal-fired power plant in Iowa has been canceled, with officials citing economic, environmental and regulatory pressures as the cause. Alliant Energy's decision to scrap the proposed Marshalltown plant reflects growing concerns in the industry over the challenges faced by coal plants. For example, last March, we reported about a Missouri power plant canceled over regulatory fears; in October, we covered the impact of the credit crisis on coal plants.

“While our company is disappointed in this missed opportunity to further Iowa’s efforts to grow its economy and position our state as a leader in renewable energy, we will continue to focus our efforts on expanding our renewable energy resources and energy efficiency initiatives and reducing our environmental impact,” Tom Aller, president of Interstate Power and Light Co., a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, said in a statement.

Aller's emphasis on renewable energy left some environmentalists hopeful about the direction of the company, writes Lynda Waddington of The Iowa Independent. “They really do seem to get that they are going to have to go towards renewables and energy efficiency, if they want to get the support of Iowans,” said Mary McBee, one of more than 700 Iowans who wrote letters to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in opposition to the construction. But other energy industry executives partnered with Alliant in the project now worry about their ability to meet the energy needs of the area. (Read more)

UPDATE, March 9: In a column, reporter Ken Black of the Marshalltown Times-Republican blames Alliant's decision on the election of "a president who said he wants to regulate and tax coal power plants out of existence." And he analyzes the impact: "If the recession is prolonged and drags on for years, this plant was our ticket to a boom when everyone else was in a bust." (Read more)

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