Greener, cleaner future means shutdown of Minnesota coal plant

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A Minnesota energy provider will make good on its promise to reduce pollution by shutting down two coal-powered generators at a plant in Schroeder, but a number of jobs may now be in jeopardy.

According to a news release, Minnesota Power will idle its Taconite Harbor Energy Center next year, and cease coal-burning operations at Units 1 and 2 by the end of 2020.

The closure also means the loss of 42 jobs, but Minnesota Power has said it will help those workers find new positions elsewhere in the company.

The company says the move is part of its "EnergyForward" initiative, which seeks to cut the utility's carbon emissions and increase its use of renewable resources (like solar, wind and water power).

The 15-year plan calls for the company to achieve a "diversified energy supply" made up of one third renewable resources, one third coal, and one third natural gas.

Minnesota Power estimates the decision will help reduce its carbon emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2025.

Currently, the utility relies on coal for 75 percent of its power, while "renewables" account for just 25 percent of its energy, Midwest Energy News reports.

Nonetheless, the company says EnergyForward is "already meeting or exceeding" state standards for renewable energy.

An official with the Sierra Club, a non-profit environmental group, called the closure the "right decision for Minnesotans" and praised Minnesota Power's actions, according to Midwest Energy News.

The statement from Minnesota Power also indicates that idling the Taconite Harbor plant – instead of closing it outright – leaves open the possibility that the units can be restarted and produce electric power if they're needed.

Minnesota Power, a subsidiary of Duluth-based Allete, Inc., serves 144,000 customers in northeastern Minnesota.

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