A new analysis from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet finds that without policy changes, the commonwealth may be powered almost entirely by natural gas by the middle of the century.
Coal-fired generation in Kentucky has already taken a hit, with limits on mercury and other air toxins that go into effect in 2016. And more rules are on the horizon: the federal government is expected to propose limits on greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants next year.
Kentucky still gets about 92 percent of its energy from coal. But according to the analysis from the Energy and Environment Cabinet, by 2050 almost all of that coal generation will be replaced by natural gas.
Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy John Lyons says neither situation is optimal when the goal is energy diversification.
“Diversification, which includes an ‘all of the above’ strategy, which includes coal, is better for the state and the nation quite frankly, than switching one fossil fuel for another from coal to gas,” he said. There’s a lot of reasons to try to preserve a base load coal generation on some level. “That’s what the study is really trying to point out, is that we’re moving in a direction where that’s not going to happen if things stay the same.”
The paper says there are a few policy changes that could help create and maintain a balanced energy mix in Kentucky, including removing the ban on nuclear power plants and allowing the Public Service Commission to ignore which energy sources are the least-cost option when considering utility applications.