Big Stone II Coal Plant: Big Mistake

Seven regional utility companies are planning on building a new coal power plant — Big Stone II — in South Dakota, just across the Minnesota border. The utilities are selling the project as a cost-effective means of producing new power. But the numbers do not add up.

The utilities recently announced that the capital costs of the project would increase by 50 percent to $1.8 billion. And this new figure does not include the cost of new federal laws, likely to be enacted in the next five years, which will target coal power plants to reduce global warming pollution. These new laws will change the economics of power generation. According to an analysis sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and three Minnesota groups, the most likely climate regulations would increase the cost of energy coming from Big Stone II by 37 to 46 percent. That comes out to an average additional cost of $86 million per year.The Big Stone II utilities are ignoring these future costs, saying, "if new regulations come, we'll deal with it." But dealing with global warming regulations later will expose ratepayers to much higher costs.

Their approach is especially short-sighted when there are alternative sources like wind energy that are more efficient, cheaper, cleaner, local, and renewable. Factoring in future CO2 costs, Big Stone II would cost more than other options that rely on the region's phenomenal wind resources.

The project still requires approval by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission before it can be built. If you live in the Minnesota area you can take action to let the PUC and the utility companies know that you want your power to come from cheaper, cleaner alternatives such as wind power.