Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Communities

January 28, 2014

Huntley power plant at risk of shutdown

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The Huntley Station power plant is at risk of shutting down due to declining revenues and a shift in the energy market, according to a report released Tuesday.

The study was commissioned by the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and completed by an Ohio consulting firm, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Coalition Director Erin Heaney said the group’s request was in response to residents’ concerns about air quality and public health.

Huntley is owned and operated by NRG Energy and is one of the few coal-burning plants left in the state. The plant has been suffering due to the rising cost of coal, low natural gas prices and a stagnant demand for electricity.

The report indicates that the pre-tax earnings generated by the plant have dropped dramatically in recent years, from a range of $56 million to $110 million in the years 2005-2008 to an average of $1 million for 2009-2012. Pre-tax, the plant has operated at a loss for three of the past five years.

The plant has also only been operating at a fraction of its capacity — as low as 19 percent — while other sources of power have accounted for the demand. The conversion of NRG’s coal plant in Dunkirk into a natural gas facility is predicted to exacerbate the problem. 

The plant is also aging and will soon be in need of maintenance upgrades, as the two remaining generating units are 56 and 57 years old and are nearing retirement.

“The bleak financial future for the Huntley plant does not indicate any near-term relief from the economic forces that have made the plant unprofitable in recent years,” Cathy Kunkel, the report’s coauthor and research fellow, said during a news conference Tuesday.

As a result, the plant does not appear to be viable and is at a risk of shutdown, the report states.

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