Aug 9, 2011 10:53 PM by Maddie Garrett

Upgrades Could Cost LUS Millions, Raise Electric Prices

Lafayette Utilities Systems will soon be shelling out millions of dollars to upgrade its power plants, and that will likely mean customers will be paying more.

This time of year electric bills seem high enough, but a few summers from now, the cost to keep you cool could be even higher.

"Our purpose again was to let the public and the council know that this is on the horizon. We're going to do our due diligence to find out what exactly we need to do and come back with something with more precision to it, probably in the next several months," said LUS Director Terry Huval.

Huval said the issue is new regulations coming down from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And LUS could be forced to spend somewhere around $175 million to meet federal regulations on energy plant emissions.

"What this would do is try and have us use a technology that is most capable of taking mercury and nickel out of the discharge of these plants," explained Huval.

LUS's main concern is the Rodemacher plant in Boyce, which is a coal-fired energy plant. UL Environmental Engineering Professor Dr. Daniel Gang said there are ways to prevent mercury from getting into the environment at coal burning plants.

"First one is a pre-combustion technology, before you burn the coal you remove the mercury first," said Gang.

Gang also explained that there is post-combustion technology that captures the mercury after it's created, but before it can be released into the environment. He said both of these methods can be very costly.

"If the facility invests some money, you can solve the problem and meet regulations," he said.

LUS might also have to upgrade its three natural gas plants in Lafayette. But those adjustments won't cost near as much as those at the coal-fired plant, which is where two-thirds of Lafayette gets its electricity. The coal plant produces much cheaper energy than the natural gas plants, but produce more pollution.

"The coal plant is the most critical one for us because of how much we depend on it to provide the low cost power that people enjoy in Lafayette today," added Huval.

Huval said LUS will have a better idea of cost and what needs to be done in the next several months. As for a timeline of when some changes have to be made, Huval said some regulations must be met by May 2012, others by 2015.



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