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Pleasants Power Plant Could Find A Buyer, But It May Be A Risky Bet

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West Virginia Governor's Office
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The West Virginia Legislature saved the Pleasants Power Station from imminent closure in 2019.

The Pleasants Power Plant in Pleasants County is scheduled to shut down next year, but there’s still a chance someone will buy it.

The Pleasants plant sits on the Ohio River just north of Parkersburg. Energy Harbor plans to shut it down in June 2023 because it no longer produces electricity economically for the PJM regional power market, as it did for many years.

However, there are three potential nontraditional uses for the plant, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

The plant could be converted to produce hydrogen from natural gas. It could generate power for cryptocurrencies, which require a lot of energy. A coal company could purchase the plant to guarantee a user for its production.

“They left the door open, just a teeny tiny bit, for somebody if they want to buy it,” said energy analyst Dennis Wamsted, who argues there are many reasons the plant would not be a good investment.

First, the plant is more than 40 years old and would require a lot of upgrades. Second, renewables are getting cheaper, and the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act includes new incentives for wind, solar and battery storage.

Third, it just isn’t competitive with other plants in PJM, a regional power market that includes West Virginia and a dozen other states.

“You can’t buy a 45-year-old coal plant and make it economic, today, in PJM," Wamsted said. "It’s not going to get more efficient, it’s not going to get cheaper, it’s not going to get younger. Maintenance costs are going up. So you end up with a plant that’s costing you boatloads of money, and you’re making no revenue off it.”

Further, he said, there are powerful incentives to help the community plan for a future without the plant. Federal money is available specifically to assist coal and power plant communities.

“The right thing to do would be to start planning to transition away from it. It won’t be popular, but that would definitely make sense.”

Pleasants was originally scheduled to shut down three years ago, until West Virginia lawmakers bailed it out with a tax break. A new buyer could extend its life, but that’s far from a sure thing.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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