Ameren Missouri is closing three of its four coal-powered plants in Missouri, leaving just its Labadie plant open.
The rural Franklin County Coal Power Plant, which went into operation in 1973 and is the largest source of coal power in the state based on megawatts per hour, will remain open through 2042, according to Ameren Missouri Public Relations Manager Brad Brown.
The Labadie plant generates 2,372 megawatts of power per hour, according to an online information graphic produced by Ameren. It will be one of seven coal-powered plants left in the state.
The plants that will be closed, or “retired,” by the utility company include the Sioux Energy Center in West Alton, which is three years older than the Labadie plant and produces 1,400 fewer megawatts of power per hour compared with Labadie. It will close in 2028.
The Rush Island Energy Center in Festus, which first opened in 1976, will close in 2039, according to Monday’s announcement. It produces 1,178 megawatts per hour.
The third plant to close, which was previously announced by the company, is the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis, which will shutter in 2022. It is described by the federal government as a combination of a conventional steam coal plant with a natural gas steam turbine, a natural gas-fired combustion turbine and petroleum liquids. It was first opened in 1953 and produces 812 megawatts per hour.
In a statement, Ameren officials said the announcement is part of a companywide goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all its operations in Missouri and Illinois. More than 75 percent of Ameren-owned, coal-fired, energy-generating power plants will be retired by 2040 with the remaining plants, including Labadie, to close by 2042.
“Part of the planning process was looking at the economics and reliability of all of our energy centers. The Labadie Energy Center operates very reliably and at a low cost, which provides benefits to our customers. Those factors are also what allow the integration of a transformative amount of renewable energy in a reliable and affordable manner,” said Ajay Arora, Ameren Missouri’s vice president of power operations and energy management.
The Labadie plant employs 250 people and is one of the largest employers in the community.
Construction on the plant began in 1970, according to The Missourian’s archives. The plant became operational in 1973.
But before construction even began on the plant, it had been plagued by questions over its environmental impact, according to The Missourian’s archives.
In March 1970, a series of hearings were held, with environmentalists questioning the effectiveness of the smokestacks which supporters of the plant said were designed to disperse any possible air pollution over a wider area than just Labadie.
With Ameren’s planned closures, Missouri would still have seven coal-fired energy plants, including the Iatan plant, which is in Weston, and the Hawthorn plant in Kansas City. Both of these plants are owned by Evergy Metro, a subsidiary of the Kansas City Power and Light Co.
The other remaining power plants in Missouri are the John Twitty Energy Center in Springfield; the New Madrid Energy Center owned by Associated Electric Cooperative in New Madrid County; the Clifton Hill plant in Randolph County in the north central region of the state; and Sikeston Power Station in Sikeston.
Monday’s announcement from Ameren also included details about the company’s “largest-ever expansion of clean solar and wind generation” energy sources.
“Our transformative plan accelerates Ameren’s transition toward cleaner energy and targets net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while meeting our customers’ expectations for safe, reliable and affordable energy,” said Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corp.
Ameren officials touted Monday’s announcement as an investment of nearly $8 billion, which will be made over two decades, that would create thousands of jobs in Missouri and across the country while also focusing on reliability of power and affordability.
“Communities in Missouri are already seeing the benefits of economic expansion driven by the availability, construction and ongoing operation of renewable resources,” said Marty Lyons, chairman and president of Ameren Missouri.
The utility company offers a number of options for customers looking to increase the amount of renewable energy on the nation’s power grid, including the Community Solar and Neighborhood Solar programs.
While Ameren’s announcement was heralded as a significant milestone by environmental groups, some local advocates say the announcement did not go far enough.
Patricia Schuba, president of the Labadie Environmental Organization, said in a statement, “Even as we acknowledge Ameren has publicly announced they intend on investing in renewable projects over the next few decades, communities demand pollution upgrades and coal ash cleanups on their largest plant in Labadie now. Air pollution from their unscrubbed plant claims approximately 140-190 lives yearly. These are family members, community leaders and children that pay the price. Why leave so many behind as they and society at large benefit from the shift to less costly and more efficient energy production?”
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has issued a permit for the Labadie plant to remain in operation through June 19, 2022, before the permit must be renewed.