Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) has started the process of shuttering the Mercer and Hudson coal-fired power plants in New Jersey. They are the last two coal plants in the utility’s service area. They’re being replaced with natural gas generation and plans to expand its use of renewable energy.
Environmentalists, health professionals and scientists celebrate the shuttering of the coal plants. The move comes even as President Donald Trump (R) threatens to pull out of the Paris Agreement to pursue more coal and fossil fuel development.
Trenton’s Mercer Generation Station and Jersey City’s Hudson Generation Station, have a combined output of 1.2 gigawatts, but not been vital to PSEG’s generation for some time. For instance, the Mercer plant has been inactive for the last 17 months. The last time it operated was in January 2016 for two days when it supplemented PJM Interconnection’s winter power demands.
“Transitioning from coal means that sulfur dioxide, mercury, and other air toxins formed when burning this fuel will no longer be injected into the atmosphere that is shared by millions of people in New Jersey,” said Monica Mazurek, an expert on urban air pollution at Rutgers University. “It is heartening to know that a major New Jersey power-producing company is transitioning to cleaner fuels and at the same time reducing air pollution for the region.”
PSEG has invested over $1 billion in developing large community solar projects in New Jersey and 13 other states. The utility has 125 megawatts of solar projects in New Jersey and was granted an extension from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to expand its community-based Solar 4 All program in December 2016. That allowed the utility to invest $80 million to build 33 megawatts of solar on decommissioned landfills and brownfields over the next three years. That’s expected to grow to a total of 158 megawatts on land that would otherwise go unused while providing customers with clean and affordable energy options.
“Customers’ demands are changing. They want more reliability, they want more resilient power, they want cleaner energy and they want access to smart technology to better understand their energy usage–all while keeping bills affordable,” said Ralph Izzo, PSEG CEO. “If done right, the future of energy in New Jersey is one where we use less energy, the energy we use is cleaner and more reliable, and bills are affordable.”
PSEG said that low natural gas prices combined with over $1 billion invested in emissions reducing upgrades, required under the Clean Air Act, could not economically justify keeping the plants in service. “The sustained low prices of natural gas have put economic pressure on these plants for some time. We could not justify the significant investment required to upgrade these plants,” said former PSEG CEO, Bill Levis while announcing the coal plant retirements in October 2016.Tweet