Evergy reverses course. Company will keep Lawrence coal plant open and trim its solar goals.

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Evergy appears to be backing off plans to close a coal-fired plant in Lawrence, instead saying it will partially operate one of the units at the facility on natural gas in a bid to increase reliability.

Evergy appears to be backing off plans to close a coal-fired plant in Lawrence, instead saying it will partially operate one of the units at the facility on natural gas in a bid to increase reliability.

In filings with the Kansas Corporation Commission earlier this week, the company also said it was trimming its goal of greater investment in solar power, arguing it would be difficult to hit its original goals in the allotted timeframe and saying the solar projects proposed "were immature in their development" due to supply chain and other challenges.

In April, Evergy announced it would be closing the Lawrence plant, expected to take 484 megawatts of fossil fuel production off the grid, and ramping up its solar investment as a way of accelerating the company's goals of the reducing carbon output.

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"“Today’s net-zero carbon emissions goal announcement is a significant step forward for our customers, communities and shareholders,” David Campbell, Evergy's president and CEO, said at the time. “We’re on a journey to a cleaner energy future."

But in the KCC filings, the company said there would be no difference in benefits in closing the plant versus transitioning one of its units over to natural gas power. They also said such a move would increase reliability in the wake of major weather events, like February's record cold temperatures.

In the spring, Evergy said it planned to replace the coal power production with 700 megawatts of solar energy in the next two years. But the KCC filings show that the solar investment in the next year will only amount to 190 megawatts.

Evergy added it plans to sign an agreement with a developer on the solar facility, which the company plans on eventually owning. The costs associated with the move will be delayed until after the Lawrence plant is partially retired.

Evergy spokesperson Jana Dawson said the move "is simply a reflection of challenges with specific near-term solar projects" and has been driven inflation and supply chain challenges.

It "does not reflect an overall change in direction or a step back," Dawson said.

Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at abahl@gannett.com or by phone at 443-979-6100.