The growth of natural gas in the United States is an economic “sweet spot” for the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. now produces nearly all of the natural gas that it uses – all but eliminating dependence on costly foreign imports. While the abundant domestic supply of natural gas provides an element of fuel security, it has made other fuel sources relatively less economic.
As we shift to using more natural gas for 24/7 reliability of the grid, one concern is that an over reliance on any single resource comes with great risk to the power grid and our customers. If our industry becomes overly dependent on natural gas generation and at the same time the transportation sector ramps up natural gas use and exports of domestic natural gas production continue, our customers will be more exposed to this historically volatile natural gas market. This is why we strongly advocate for fuel diversity.
The deliverability of natural gas is critical, especially during peak demand periods and when variable resources, such as renewables, are not available. This is why several of our natural gas plants are connected to at least two pipelines or have alternative fuel capabilities. This gives us greater access to competitive supplies and reliable delivery. We continue working with regulators to align the needs and interests of the gas and electric industries to gain more certainty and flexibility when procuring and scheduling natural gas for our units. There are also efforts underway at the federal level to assure physical security of pipeline infrastructure.
Learn More About Gas/Electric Harmonization
From Coal to Gas
In June 2016, Kentucky Power Company’s Big Sandy Plant completed its conversion from a coal-fueled generating facility to natural gas. The 800 MW Unit 2 was retired and generated its last megawatt of electricity on May 13, 2015. Unit 1 continued operating until its coal supply ran out in November 2015, and the conversion of Unit 1 to burn natural gas fuel started soon after.
In June 2016, Kentucky Power Company’s Big Sandy Plant completed its conversion from a coal-fueled generating facility to natural gas.
Making the switch to natural gas was important to the Lawrence County, Ky., community because the plant provides jobs and a local tax base. The plant and its employees have been a part of the Louisa and eastern Kentucky community for more than 50 years, providing low-cost electricity to the region.
While the conversion marked the beginning of a new chapter for Big Sandy Plant, it won’t be the last. Kentucky Power’s long-term plans include razing Unit 2 and converting a portion of the site into an industrial park. Unit 2’s cooling tower was imploded in September 2016 as part of the long-term plans for developing the site.
Appalachian Power’s Clinch River Plant in southwestern Virginia was also converted to natural gas. It stopped burning coal in September 2015 and began delivering gas-fueled electricity in 2016.