by Tyler Hale
Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) is looking to phase out its Dolet Hills Power Plant, located near Mansfield La.
The company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP), has requested regulatory approval to close the power plant by the end of 2026. The closing will be part of a settlement agreement approved in December 2019 by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. During that same meeting, the public service commission approved new base electricity rates for SWEPCO customers that went into effect Dec. 31, 2019.
“With this agreement, we continue to focus on the economic operations of the plant and lignite mine to best serve our customers. This action follows our change to seasonal operations last year as we adjust to electric power market conditions and the challenges of mining the Oxbox lignite reserves,” Brian Bond, SWEPCO vice president of External Affairs, said in a statement.
Clean energy advocates are celebrating the power plant’s retirement. SWEPCO agreed to the plant’s closure after the Sierra Club agreed to withdraw pending challenges to the Dolet Hills Power Plant in Texas and Louisiana. Closing the Dolet Hills facility has been an objective of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which aims to secure the retirement of coal plants and encourage alternative fuels.
Cherelle Blazer, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal senior campaign representative, says the power plant’s retirement marks a win for the public in Arkansas and Louisiana.
“The retirement of Dolet Hills is a win for ratepayers, public health and the environment. This is a golden opportunity for investment in Louisiana and Arkansas with more cost-effective clean energy capital projects like building solar and wind capacity,” she says. “Sierra Club supports a just transition for affected workers and front line communities who have suffered from dirty coal pollution for over 40 years.”
According to a Sierra Club analysis, closing the 650-megawatts lignite fueled plant will save customers approximately $60 million on utility bills.
American Electric Power, SWEPCO’s parent company, has been investing in alternative energy sources. The company bought Sempra Renewables LLC, a wind generation and battery company in April 2019.
The company reportedly plans to balance its energy portfolio and cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050.