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Owensboro Municipal Utilities plans to stop burning coal by 2023

By Steve Vied The Messenger-Inquirer

OWENSBORO -- The death-knell for coal sounded at Owensboro Municipal Utilities on Thursday.

The end came on a measure approved by the utility's board of directors authorizing the staff to notify state environmental officials of OMU's intent to cease burning coal at the Elmer Smith Station power plant on Ky. 144.

"What it means for the community is that we will no longer generate coal-fired energy," OMU General Manager Terry Naulty said. "The Elmer Smith Station as it currently exists will cease as early as 2022 or 2023. It can't be later than 2023. It may be earlier."

The plant's Unit 1 boiler will cease coal operation in 2019, based on decisions already made. The larger Unit 2 will soldier on for a few more years.

When all coal operation finally ends, OMU's stated intent is turn to natural gas as its primary source of electrical generation, although no decisions have been made on how that will happen. Options include OMU building its own natural gas generation plant, investing in a new natural gas plant scheduled to be built in Henderson County, or buying from an existing natural gas generation source. Another option would be to simply purchase power from the national electric grid.

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