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Still Working to Become a Coal-Free City

April 24, 2018 09:14 AM

(ABC 6 News) --  Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and the City of Rochester made a pledge a few years back to become a "completely coal-free" City by 2031.

Even though the Silver Lake Power Plant in Rochester stopped producing energy from coal in 2015, 64% of the City's energy still comes from coal. That’s according to the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA).

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In 1977, Rochester joined 17 other cities to form SMMPA. The agency then bought a share in the Sherco Power Plant in Becker, Minnesota.

Rochester’s contract with the plant ends in 2030, and Director of the Agency, Christopher Schoenherr, says the shift to phase coal out has already begun. “If you look back at 2008, we were about 89% coal,” he said.

A local group that focuses on sustainability wants to take it one step further. The Sierra Club in Rochester is pushing for a plan that involves using only renewable energy. "Create a plan for what that looks like by 2030, 2035 to be 100% clean renewable energy," said Rick Morris, Rochester’s Clean Energy Organizer.

However, RPU Board Member, Brian Morgan, says it will need to “Evaluate those different strategies and options against each other."

Whatever the combination of solar, wind and gas, both RPU and SMMPA believe the coal-free initiative will have a positive impact on more than the environment.

"I would expect rates would actually become more competitive as a result of the coal going offline," said Morgan.

“Wind energy and solar energy has gone down over time. Natural gas prices right now are pretty low,” said Schoenherr. “There's any number of factors that can change that over time. We work together very carefully to try to minimize any cost increases that come along."

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