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Minnesota Power to Close Two Coal Units, Add NatGas Generation

Minnesota Power plans to idle its Taconite Harbor Energy Center in Schroeder, MN, next year, cease coal operations there in 2020, and add 200-300 MW of natural gas-fired generation to its portfolio within the next decade, all as part of a long-term plan to reduce carbon emissions.

There are two coal-fired units operating at the facility, which is owned and operated by Minnesota Power parent Allete. A third unit at the facility was retired in May. The idled units could be restarted and produce electricity to maintain grid reliability if necessary, the company said.

The utility's EnergyForward plan, introduced in 2013, is a roadmap for achieving a diversified energy supply of one-third renewable resources, one-third coal and one-third natural gas. It would reduce carbon emissions across Minnesota Power's system 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2025.

Minnesota Power also plans to build both large and small scale solar generation and expand the potential for energy efficiency savings.

"This is Minnesota Power's way of answering the nation's call to reduce carbon and mitigate climate change," said Allete CEO Alan Hodnik. "The cost of building and fueling natural gas generation has dropped significantly in recent years and along with other key steps in our plan, we can reduce cost risks for customers by adding this least-cost resource."

Minnesota Power plans to reduce 90% of mercury emissions at Boswell 4, the largest unit in its fleet, at the Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset, MN.

Since announcing the EnergyForward plan, Minnesota Power has taken several steps toward a more balanced energy supply, including converting its 110 MW Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes, MN, from coal to natural gas.

Minnesota Power is scheduled to submit to the to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by Sept. 1 an Integrated Resource Plan outlining final recommendations for the next phase of the EnergyForward Plan.

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