Owensboro utility to close unit of coal-fired power plant

Elmer Smith Power Plant.

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — The days are numbered for one unit of a coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities has announced it will shut down Unit 1 of the Elmer Smith Power Plant sometime between 2019 and 2021. WFPL-FM reports the plant's other, larger unit will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.

The utility doesn't have a plan yet for replacing the power, but CEO Terrance Naulty says it will likely be natural gas or renewable energy.

More than half of the coal plants operating in Kentucky in 2011 were built before 1970, and utilities are being forced to decide whether to update the plants or shut them down.

Naulty said shutting the unit down works out better financially.

"It's not driven by environmental regulations. This is a pure economic decision," he said. "It makes more sense for us to invest in newer, cleaner, cheaper technology than to invest in the older coal-fired generation."

Rick Fowler of the Sierra Club's local group said the organization is looking forward to the unit's retirement.

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