Kaptur Joins Zilka, NRG Exec to Discuss Future of Avon Lake Power Plant
Congresswoman Kaptur joined Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka and NRG Energy regional president Lee Davis to discuss recent developments at the Avon Lake power plant, which NRG acquired last year in the merger with GenOn.
“We’re definitely excited about NRG’s plans to keep the plant open and generating cleaner energy,” Kaptur said during a news conference at the facility on Lake Road. “I couldn’t be happier that NRG chose Avon Lake to be part of its long-term strategy.”
Kaptur, who is ranking member on the Energy and Water Subcommittee of House Appropriations, said “NRG management really did their homework. They have been great to work with.”
The plant had been expected to close by 2015. But NRG officials announced on Monday they plan to convert the plant’s coal-fired boilers to burn natural gas also and to use the facility to generate electricity during peak load times on the power grid.
The project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2016.
Kaptur described the announcement as “somewhat bittersweet” in that the plant would operate with approximately half as many workers and generate commensurately less tax revenue.
“On the other hand, the plant will continue to operate. It will not be shuttered. And its value clearly will be recognized by everyone in the industry,” Kaptur said.
Kaptur said she hosted meetings both in her office and attended meetings with Mayor Zilka, council members and community leaders.
She also discussed the plant with NRG officials. She said David Crane, NRG’s president and chief executive officer, oversaw an exhaustive review of Avon Lake and other plants in order to take full advantage of the Gen-On merger.
“NRG management really looked at the Avon Lake plant with fresh eyes,” said Congresswoman Kaptur. “As Lee Davis said, ‘Not all coal facilities are created equally.’ So they really went over this with a fine-toothed comb. The market was there. Two big factors were access to low-cost natural gas and boilers that could easily be retrofitted.
“The fact is, some of the other coal-burning plants did not survive. They were deactivated. But at the end of the day, Avon Lake was an important part of NRG’s strategy, along with New Castle.”
NRG said Avon Lake (732 megawatts) and New Castle, Pennsylvania (330 megawatts) would both be retrofitted by the summer of 2016. They were among eight coal-fired plants that were scheduled to be closed by GenOn. NRG is currently the largest commercial generator of electric power in the country.
“Would we have liked to keep the plant running full tilt with the current size workforce? Of course. But this is far preferable to losing the plant entirely,” Kaptur said.
“NRG has crunched the numbers and they realize they can generate electricity more efficiently this way—by converting the right coal-fired plant into a gas-fired plant—and do it with less capital outlay and therefore less debt.
“The fact is, some of the other coal-burning plants did not survive. They were deactivated. But at the end of the day, Avon Lake was an important part of NRG’s strategy, along with New Castle. But Avon Lake is more than twice as big.”