Orlando Utility Pulling Plug on Coal-Fired Generation

The Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) said it plans to eliminate the group’s use of coal for power generation no later than 2027, including converting two coal-fired units at its Stanton Energy Center to run on natural gas.

The Florida utility’s management on Oct. 14 made the recommendation as part of its Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) process. Management on Wednesday said it supports a strategic plan for net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050, as well as interim targets of a 50% emissions reduction by 2030, and a 75% cut by 2040.

OUC said it plans to make solar power its main source of new generation, and also will invest in “energy storage and other clean technologies to ensure reliability and resiliency are maintained,” according to a news release.

“OUC Management recommends significantly reducing coal-fired generation no later than 2025 and eliminating it no later than 2027, using coal-to-gas conversion as a technology bridge, positioning solar as the main source of new energy, investing in energy storage, and leveraging other future clean technologies,” said Clint Bullock, CEO and general manager of OUC, in comments to POWER. “For nearly 100 years, OUC has provided customers with reliable, affordable essential electric and water services. As we look ahead, we will continue to deliver value to our community by exploring the future of clean, renewable energy and investing in innovative, sustainable solutions.”

The Orlando Utilities Commission plans to convert two coal-fired units at its Stanton Energy Center in Florida to burn natural gas, before closing the plant by 2040. Courtesy: Florida Municipal Power Agency / POWER archives

The utility said it gathered input from several community forums, and also from a four-month-long online survey period. An advisory council—a 12-member, independent group representing Orange County, the City of Orlando, and the City of St. Cloud—ranked key attributes, including affordability, reliability, resiliency, and sustainability, and determined how those measures should be weighted when scoring potential energy portfolios.

The recommendation not only allows for reaching the utility’s goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, it also aligns with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2017 proclamation that called for the city to achieve 100% renewable energy generation by 2050.

OUC listed four primary components of its plan:

  • End coal-fired generation, with a significant reduction no later than 2025, and eliminating it no later than 2027. The Stanton coal units, with 940 MW of generation capacity, while being converted to natural gas, will “ultimately be retired no later than 2040,” the utility said. The Stanton plant, which also includes two operating natural gas-fired units, is the subject of ongoing litigation for environmental issues related to the facility. OUC also owns a 40% share of the 340-MW Unit 3 at the C.D. McIntosh plant in Lakeland, Florida; that unit is is expected to shutter by the end of 2024.
  • Accelerate solar and energy storage as primary strategies. The utility also said it “will continue to monitor cost and performance developments for new and existing clean technologies, such as hydrogen and small modular reactors.”
  • Leverage future clean technologies to ensure diversity for reliability, in order to reduce dependency on solar and storage.
  • Strive to maintain competitive rates for customers while achieving strategic goals. The utility acknowledged that, “Advancements of this magnitude require significant investments. However, the recommendation delivers the best value.”

The results of the EIRP will be approved by the utility’s board at a later date. A public workshop on the plan will be held Nov. 17. The utility said that moving forward, EIRPs will be considered every five years as technology and economic conditions change.

OUC said about 180 employees work at the coal units. OUC is Florida’s second-largest municipal utility, serving about 250,000 customers in Orange and Osceola counties.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).



SHARE this article