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February 12, 2016

CT's remaining coal plant to convert to gas

The owner of a coal-fired power plant in Bridgeport — the last such plant still operating in the state — is planning to convert the facility to cleaner-burning natural gas.

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) said Thursday that it intends for Bridgeport Harbor to start operating on gas instead of coal in 2019. It pegged its investment in the conversion at more than $550 million.

The plant has run infrequently in recent years, according to a 2013 article by Scientific American.

PSEG had said as recently as 2013 that it planned to add a gas-fired plant to the site, while keeping the coal plant, according to the Connecticut Post.

But the announcement this week signals a change from its earlier position.

Part of the reason for that could be that PSEG secured 485 megawatts worth of capacity payments for the planned gas-fired plant in a recent ISO New England forward capacity auction. The regional grid operator provides payments to power generators that promise to be ready to supply power to the grid when it’s needed in the future.

PSEG’s announcement comes after years of New England’s mix of electricity generation shifting toward natural gas. In 2014, coal accounted for just 5 percent of New England’s power mix, down from 18 percent in 2000, according to ISO-NE.

Federal pollution regulations are also tightening. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized regulations last year after fighting coal-heavy states in court for years.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, issued a ruling this week that placed implementation of the plan on hold.

Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement praising the planned conversion of the plant.

“Today's announcement to convert the PSEG plant to natural gas is incredibly positive news,” Malloy said. “Our state continues to show that we can meet our energy needs while decreasing our carbon footprint — we are leaders in combating global warming.”

Connecticut has pledged to reduce its emissions by as much as 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

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