Environment

A half-dozen Louisville Metro Council members are calling on Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities to hasten plans to phase out fossil fuels.

In a letter sent to state utility regulators on Earth Day, they say LG&E’s plans to continue burning coal and natural gas over the next 15 years are inconsistent with the city’s goals of achieving 100% renewable energy for metro operations by 2030, and communitywide by 2040. 

“We don’t think it will help meet the goals that we need to help prevent catastrophic climate change,” said District 9 Council Member Bill Hollander. “We also think the reduction of harmful emissions from coal-generating plants can lead to better health outcomes.”   

Regulators at Kentucky’s Public Service Commission are currently reviewing LG&E’s 15-year integrated resource plan, which is the road map for how the utility plans to meet ratepayers’ energy demands in the least-cost manner. 

The utility’s plan comes at a particularly important moment according to climate scientists who say the next few years are the last opportunity for humankind to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Without steep emissions cuts, the planet is on a trajectory to warm twice that amount.

The letter from Metro Council members says LG&E still plans to generate around 80% of its electricity from fossil fuels in 2036. 

“As we have seen throughout the nation, state and even our own city, climate change impacts are costly in both lives and dollars. Without a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which in Louisville comes from electricity use, we will continue to see deadly and costly climate disasters,” the letter states.

It was signed by Council members Jecorey Arthur, District 4, Bill Hollander, District 9, Rick Blackwell, District 12, Nicole George, District 21, Madonna Flood, District 24, and Amy Holton Steward, District 25. 

LG&E is the state’s largest utility service with more than 1.3 million ratepayers. Over the next 15 years, LG&E says it plans to replace coal-fired generating units with some combination of renewables and natural gas, according to LG&E’s latest Integrated Resource Plan

LG&E and its parent company, PPL, have updated climate action plans to reduce emissions 70% from 2010 levels by 2035 and 80% by 2040. However, PPL’s own climate assessment states its goals are simply “aspirational” and are not promised or guaranteed.  

The utilities also plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but LG&E doesn’t plan to stop burning coal until 2066. A representative for LG&E has said it could be one of the last remaining coal plants in the country at that time.

A spokesperson for LG&E says the utility plans to file written responses to the letter and dozens of other similar comments as part of the planning process. 

With regard to our clean energy goals, we continuously review our targets, assess the ongoing energy demands of our customers and work to make the best decisions based on the information available,” said Natasha Collins. 

Metro Council members’ letter says utilities across the country are retiring their coal plants early due to steep competition from renewable energy. They recommend LG&E model early closures of its own coal-fired power plants as Duke Energy has done in its own integrated resource plan. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.