Mat-Su readers, in case you have been living on the moon, I’ll fill you in on some recent developments at our local electric utility.

MEA has been trying to build their own generation plants (one natural gas, one coal). A recent ballot sent to members showed that MEA’s members would like the plants to be built near Palmer (never mind that the ballot’s didn’t ask IF we even wanted the plants).

After much haranguing by their constituents and the press, the company has released the full version of the Integrated Resource Plan that was prepared for them by consulting firm CH2M Hill. You can get a copy of the plan here. The goal of this IRP was to explore MEA’s options for building their own power generation plant(s), and the risks and benefits of these options. Here are a few excerpts:

• The expansion scenario of baseload coal and natural gas generation is lower in total cost
(i.e., fuel, variable and fixed operation and maintenance costs, and capital) than the all
natural gas scenario.
• Among the coal options available to MEA, CFB units have the lowest busbar cost and a
relatively favorable emissions profile. It is expected that MEA can meet a state cap on Hg
emissions with CFB technology without having to rely on IGCC technology
The results of this study suggest that:
• Fuel prices have the greatest impact on MEA’s decisions regarding future generation
additions. MEA should continue to monitor the development of these variables.
• MEA continue further development of local ownership/control of baseload coal generation
(CFB) supplemented by natural gas generation and renewable energy options over the
study period.

The IRP looked at alternative sources of energy, including wind and geothermal power (although it didn’t explore these options as extensively as the gas/coal option).

A group of locals has formed the Utility Watch organization, and has put a list of reasons on their website on why the coal plan will fail. Some of the following are listed:

MEA Says: It wants to be independent.

IN FACT: MEA will still be very dependent. MEA would go from buying bulk electric power from a REGULATED utility to buying fuel from an UNREGULATED coal supplier.

MEA Says: It wants increased reliability.

IN FACT: Reliability improvements would not be significant. Most of the service problems are directly related to fallen trees, wind, ice, and snow on the lines that carry power to individual houses and buildings.

Some good points. Something smells fishy.