Rob Port Podcast: “The Plant is Worthless Without the Power Line.”

Last week, Great River Energy (GRE) announced they would be shutting down the Coal Creek power plant decades before the end of the plant’s useful life. This decision was confusing, because as far as coal plants go, Coal Creek is one of the most productive, and lowest-cost generators in the entire United States, according to S&P Global.

GRE has claimed they are open to selling the plant, but have not found any buyers. It appears this is because GRE wants to keep the large, high voltage power line that transports the electricity generated in North Dakota to customers in Minnesota, but it apparently won’t be that easy.

According to the Plain Talk podcast with Rob Port, GRE may not get to keep the transmission line if it decides to close Coal Creek. You read the description of the show and listen to the podcast below:

“To hear Ladd Erickson tell it, when Coal Creek Station was built the justification for constructing the power transmission line that services it across acres and acres of prime North Dakota farmland (to the consternation of many farmers at the time) was that the coal plant would generate economic activity.

Erickson is the State’s Attorney for McLean County, and he believes that if Great River Energy wants to shut down and deconstruct their coal power plant, then they ought to take down their power line too and return the land it’s using to farmers.

“North Dakota has no economic interested in the power line,” he said on this episode of Plain Talk.

Coal Creek is North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant. Great River Energy has said they want to find a buyer for the plant, but if they can’t they will shut it down in two years.

“We hope they’re sincere in this effort to sell the plant,” Erickson told me, but added that he doesn’t believe they can.

That transmission line that serves Coal Creek is extremely valuable. It serves the Minnesota market and, if the coal plant is shut down, could be used to transport power generated by wind turbines, but Erickson doesn’t believe Great River should get to do that.

“The power plant, the mine, and the power line is all one piece of infrastructure,” he says, noting the project was regulated that way when it was built and should be treated that way now, too.”