Whether Holcomb 2 Coal Plant Is Built or Not, Base Load Generation Will Still Be Needed in Extreme Weather, Energy Advocate Says

With the Holcomb 2 coal fired power plant’s construction much in doubt, an energy advocate and former Missouri utility regulator still sees a future for fossil fuels in electrical generation, at least in the
short term.

“The need for base load generation really will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Terry Jarrett, former member of the Missouri Public Service Commission. “Even as our electric industry transitions to more and more renewables, those renewables are intermittent forms of energy and we’re going to need base load power during certain times, which is coal and nuclear and natural gas.”

When Sunflower Electric requested a permit extension from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to keep the project alive, Sunflower Electric said it and Tri-State no longer need the
electricity that would be produced by the new coal plant. They are looking for customers to buy the power a new plant would generate.

“Coal can have some problems in the wintertime, especially in extreme cold weather,” said Jarrett. “The stockpiles can get moisture in them and freeze. You do see some outages, perhaps, with coal, but, traditionally, coal has worked really well in the cold weather.”

Renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar, rely on favorable weather to work. The wind has to blow or the sun has to shine for those to generate power. Jarrett is dubious about a good storage mechanism for renewable energy being viable soon.

“The advocates for that type of energy are going to tell you, oh, it’s just around the corner,” said Jarrett. “It’s going to be here in the next 10 years, 15 years. I take a little more jaded view, I guess, a
little more skeptical view. I don’t think that technology, while it is promising, is really at this point ready for any type of large scale deployment and use.”

Winterizing any and all types of power generation has its challenges, but it’s vital that regardless of the form of generation that is able to be used, proper maintenance to limit downtime must happen to keep the power flowing, no matter the weather.