Evergy will keep open part of its Lawrence, Kansas, coal plant to run occasionally on natural gas despite earlier plans to shutter it completely and fall short of earlier pledges to add massive amounts of solar power to the electric grid, the utility revealed in regulatory filings this week.
Earlier this year, Evergy filed its “integrated resource plan” with Kansas and Missouri regulators, outlining proposals to add more renewable energy and retire fossil fuel generators. In it, the utility pledged to shutter the Lawrence Energy Center in Kansas by the end of 2023 and add 350 megawatts in solar power to the grid in that same timeframe.
“We’re on a journey to a cleaner energy future, while balancing the highest priorities of reliability and affordability for our customers,” the company’s president and CEO David Campbell said in a press release at the time.
But the company filed on Monday with the Kansas Corporation Commission to instead convert one of the two remaining units at LEC to run on natural gas intermittently, providing reliability when customers’ energy use peaks. It also revealed a plan to invest in 190 megawatts of solar power.
In a statement, Evergy’s spokeswoman, Gina Penzig, said the company remains committed to the renewable energy additions it outlined. The change to 190 megawatts instead of 350 is a “reflection of challenges with specific near-term solar projects.”
“Evergy’s current plan appropriately balances transitioning our fleet while also maintaining reliability and affordability for our customers,” Penzig said in a statement. “The recent updates to our plan are not a change in direction.”
At the time Evergy issued its original proposal, the Sierra Club said the company’s plans fell short compared with what it needed to do to “mitigate the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”
“We were disappointed that Evergy is already moving backwards on the modest clean energy timelines they established in their IRP a few months ago,” Ty Gorman, Kansas representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said.
Evergy’s integrated resource plan pledges to reduce carbon emissions 70% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. The company said it would achieve net-zero carbon status by 2045.
To do so, it plans to add 3,200 megawatts of renewable generation over the next 10 years while retiring 1,200 megawatts in fossil fuels.
The plan outlined additions of 350 megawatts of solar power per year in 2023 and 2024, and 500 megawatts of wind per year in 2025 and 2026. Starting in 2028, the company says it will add 500 megawatts of renewable energy every year.