Homer City plant may downscale output in 2023

Feb. 15—HOMER CITY, Pa. — The operator of a 2-gigawatt power plant in Indiana County is considering significantly downscaling its coal-fired production in the summer of 2023.

Facing an upcoming deadline from a regional power organization that operates a 13-state wholesale electricity market, Homer City Generation L.P. has requested a formal "exception" until April 4 to determine how much electricity the facility would provide during the 2023-24 cycle, Homer City officials said in a release to media.

The plant produces power for the PJM Interconnection independent market, which spans from Illinois to Delaware. PJM conducts annual "capacity auctions" to commit power generation, efficiency and provide long-term pricing for the energy that is bought and sold.

Homer City officials said they plan to issue a response to the organization by April 4.

The Indiana County plant operates on three units capable of providing electricity for up to $2 million homes. For now, their move will have no immediate impact on the 129 employees at the plant, company officials said.

But decisions have to be made for 2023 and beyond.

Homer City President and CEO William Wexler said that could include a broad menu of options, including a shift to a one- or two-unit operation and also exploring the possibility of renewable energy generating capacity.

"We're proud of the investments we've made in the Homer City Generating Station and the work of our talented team of employees," said Homer City President and CEO William Wexler. "We look forward to engaging with the local community on alternative uses, including but not limited to the installation of renewable generating capacity, given the significant amount of infrastructure located on the site."

The company did not indicate which type of renewable energy could be explored.

But they noted that all of those options will depend on ongoing operating performance, the company's ability to support a one or two unit coal-supported operation, maintenance costs, coal prices and supply — and regulatory uncertainties.

That includes Pennsylvania's potential entry in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The plant underwent hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades, including new scrubbers to meet air quality standards over the past decade.

State leaders, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have already indicated their intent to join the multi-state consortium, which would direct fossil fuel-burning plants to pay fees to support clean energy initiatives within their region.

Homer City is one of the region's few remaining coal-fired plants at a time providers are increasingly pivoting to natural gas and other sources.

Two other current plants — Conemaugh and Keystone — indicated last year they will stop using coal and retire their electricity-generating units by Dec. 31, 2028, rather than comply with wastewater guidelines amended several years ago, The Associated Press has reported.