Power utility South Carolina Electric & Gas says it will close six of its coal-fired generators over the next six years.
In a plan filed with the state Public Service Commission Wednesday, SCE&G revealed it would retire Unit 1 at its Canadys Station near Walterboro and convert Unit 3 at the Urquhart plant near Aiken to handle natural gas by the end of this year.
The company said it later plans to also switch over the remaining two Canadys units by 2015 before retiring them by 2018. The same is also true of the two units at the McMeekin Station in Irmo.
SCE&G spokesman Robert Yanity said the decision was partly due to new emissions standards from the EPA. “From a standpoint of feasibility, the cost to retrofit them with expensive environmental controls just was not feasible.”
He said the six units are the last remaining SCE&G coal-powered units that do not have “scrubbers,” which are used to remove sulfur dioxide and mercury from the plant’s emissions. The new EPA standards toughened limits on sulfur dioxide and required one-hour measurements at each site, rather than using the average over a 24-hour or yearlong period over all of SCE&G’s locations.
“Those two units alone (Canadys Unit 1 and Urquhart 3) represented about 25 percent of our sulfur dioxide emissions and about 12 percent of our nitrous oxide emissions,” Yanity said.
However, another reason for the switch is that SCE&G expects its two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Site in Jenkinsville to be finished by 2018.
“Since announcing our new nuclear project in 2008, we’ve said that the addition of the two new nuclear units would give us flexibility to look at reducing our reliance on coal and allow us to achieve better fuel diversity in our electric generation portfolio,” Kevin Marsh, Chairman and CEO of SCE&G’s parent company SCANA Corp., said in a statement.
Marsh said the company hopes that a third of its power will come from nuclear, a third from natural gas, and another third from coal by 2018.
The company says about 20 positions will be eliminated this year as SCE&G starts making the changes. Overall, the company has 85 employees at Canadys, 70 at McMeekin, and 81 at Urquhart. However, Yanity said it was too early to know what the impact on jobs would be by 2018.