Pilsen power plant shutting down early
Plants' owner decides running Fisk and Crawford no longer economically feasible
05/09/2012 10:00 PM
Pilsen and Little Village’s coal-fired power plants are pulling the plug this September, months and years, respectively, before they were scheduled to do so.
Fisk in Pilsen was originally scheduled to close by the end of 2012, while Crawford in Little Village was to close by the end of 2014 under an agreement brokered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the plants’ owner, Midwest Generation.
But Midwest Generation announced last week that it’s planning to shutter both plants this September, after this summer’s peak energy season, because it’s no longer economically worth it to run the plants.
Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, said the company took a hard look at the dollars and cents of running the plants after they cut the deal with Emanuel.
“We needed to do additional economic analysis, and when we did, we determined that once we get through the peak demand period of this summer, there’s just not an economic case to continue to run those plants,” McFarlan said. “We need move forward with trying to run the business as best we can and preserve the value of our entire corporation.”
When the plants shut down this fall, about 175 jobs at Midwest Generation’s plants throughout the state will be lost, he said. That includes not only employees at the two plants, but also support staff throughout the state.
Union members with seniority working at the plants will be given the opportunity to move to another plant elsewhere in Midwest Generation’s system, which could push out other employees with less seniority, McFarlan said.
Pilsen and Little Village community groups praised the move.
“The company has made the decision that best serves its purposes at this stage,” said Rosalie Mancera, a board member at Pilsen Alliance members. “This adds more urgency to working together to find the best future use for those sites and, hopefully, also employment for all those families that are suffering.”
Mancera said she feels for the employees losing their jobs sooner than expected, and hopes new opportunities can fill the void at the sites the two plants will leave behind.
“The best thing to do would be to replace at least the jobs that are being lost with living-wage jobs for people in the community,” she said.
The Fisk and Crawford plants also don’t create too much power, in the scheme of the entire grid. Combined, they generate about 850 megawatts of power. That’s about a third of what the Braidwood Nuclear Generating station in Will County produces, and it’s less than one-half of 1 percent of the total power generated in the regional grid that Illinois taps into.
Shutting the plants down will be a matter of housework. The generators will be unhooked from the power grid, and there’ll be a few things done to the generating equipment itself to render it inoperable.
All of the power-generating equipment at Fisk’s 60-acre site won’t be shut down — just what’s run by coal. Midwest Generation also has eight special generators called “peakers” that only kick in and turn on when electricity demand gets high, like on exceedingly hot summer days.
Powered by oil, diesel fuel or gas, they’re under contract through at least 2015, and McFarlan said Midwest Generation doesn’t have any plans to shut them down in the near future.
ComEd, which is a separate entity from Midwest Generation, also owns a good deal of equipment on the site that’s used to transmit electricity. That’ll remain operational indefinitely.
What to do with the site is still being worked out by a team of politicians, businessmen and community representatives. The team is made up of community representatives from the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Pilsen Alliance and Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization.
Also on the team will be representatives from plant owner Midwest Generation, the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development, Commonwealth Edison, and aldermen Danny Solis and Rick Munoz.