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LG&E/KU expect smaller coal mining load declines over next 15 years

Highlights

Utilities do not expect sales to decline at same rate moving forward

Western Kentucky load fell by 215 GWh since 2014

Louisville, Kentucky — Kentucky's largest electric utilities, Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, are forecasting smaller power sales declines to the coal-mining sector going forward compared with sharp reductions over the past several years, according to their newly filed integrated resource plan.

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Since their last IRP was submitted to the Kentucky Public Service Commission in 2014, coal-mining load in western Kentucky fell by 215 GWh while mining load in eastern Kentucky decreased by 13 GWh, says the new plan that runs through 2033.

While coal mine closings and layoffs in eastern Kentucky's Central Appalachian region have garnered most of the headlines in recent years, LG&E/KU said their loads have been impacted more during the period by declines in western Kentucky, part of the Illinois Basin.

While the outlook for coal "remains weak," the utilities said, they "do not expect sales to the mining sector to continue to decline at the same rate moving forward for several reasons," including that the majority of announced coal-fired generating unit retirements already have occurred in the region, and coal exports to foreign markets "remain a viable option for producers."

US thermal coal exports increased from 3.5 million st to 12.3 million st between the third quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2018, LG&E/KU noted.

Under the new IRP, which extends through February 2020, the utilities expect to retire coal units 1 and 2, totaling about 272 MW, at the E.W. Brown power plant in early 2019. That comprises the bulk of the planned coal shutdowns, although IRPs are a snapshot in time and can undergo changes.

The two utilities currently own and operate over 5,000 MW of coal-fired generation out of their roughly 8,600 MW total portfolio.

-- Bob Matyi, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com