MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority's board voted Thursday to retire the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis and replace it with a natural-gas facility, marking another step by the nation's largest utility to reduce its reliance on coal.
CEO Bill Johnson said the $975 million, 1,000-megawatt natural-gas fired plant will significantly cut emissions of carbon dioxide and gases that cause smog, while providing power to about 580,000 homes.
The 55-year-old Allen coal plant generates about 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough for 340,000 homes. The TVA said the plant consumes about 7,200 tons of coal daily.
"This natural gas plant will improve air quality in Memphis and that is important to the city's vitality and future economic development," Johnson said at a board meeting in Knoxville.
Tougher environmental regulations and cheaper natural gas prices in recent years have prompted utilities in several states to move to cleaner-burning gas. TVA already has announced plans to shut down coal-fired boilers at plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
"This is a decision that has national significance because it is an example of where a very large utility is continuing to make decisions to move away from their coal fleet," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The U.S. government-owned utility supplies power to about 9 million people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. In fiscal year 2013, coal accounted for 38 percent of TVA's portfolio while natural gas made up 8 percent. Johnson has said he would like to see those numbers closer to 20 percent each over the next decade.
TVA's move away from coal has met some resistance. The TVA's plans to shut down two coal-fired units at the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky led to a federal lawsuit from a group of landowners and a Kentucky coal industry group. They said the TVA did not follow proper procedure and its own rules in deciding to close the units.
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