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updated: 10/5/2012 4:54 PM

Batavia looking to sell its share of electricity from plantw

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Batavia is looking to sell the electricity it is required to obtain from the Prairie State coal plant.

The city's public works director announced the sale Thursday.

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The city is a member of the Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency, along with Geneva and Rochelle. The agency invested in the new plant, a coal mine and an ashfill in southern Illinois. Batavia is obligated to purchase 48 percent of the electricity NIMPA receives.

Batavia signed the contract in 2007. Officials thought the town would need more electricity since more industrial and commercial customers moved in.

But development slowed with the 2008 recession.

In August, a clean-energy group, critical of the plant, released a report saying that the plant was charging close to $60 per megawatt hour for electricity, compared to the $41 investors such as NIMPA expected. A May 2012 bill from NIMPA showed NIMPA was charging Batavia $57.68 per megawatt hour for electricity.

Batavia is looking to sell up to 50 megawatts.

Batavia and Geneva bought into the 1,600 megawatt plant, via NIMPA, to diversify their electricity supply. Until now, the cities have bought power from ComEd, Wisconsin Power or on the wholesale spot market.

According to the federal Energy Information Agency, wholesale prices for the first six months of the year were low, at $38.17 per megawatt hour for the northern Illinois market. It attributed that to an extraordinarily warm winter and spring reducing demand, and low natural gas prices.

Batavia commissioned a study of its electricity options in 2011. The study recommended further diversification, based on the effect of changes in the national economy on Batavia.

"As the economy has recovered over the past few years Batavia has seen some new business growth and the expansion of several existing businesses," Gary Holm, public works director, said in a prepared statement. "The city's electrical system has grown but at a much slower rate than what was projected in 2007."

The Sierra Club of Illinois has been critical of the Prairie State plant. "Batavia fell victim to a risky bet on coal. Peabody (the developer and initial owner of the plant) promised low rates which we now know aren't possible," Sierra Club Director Jack Darin said in a prepared statement.

"We stand with Batavia as they seek to protect their community, and encourage communities across the Midwest to do the same. We hope to be allies as they seek to protect their ratepayers and our environment with investments in more wind, solar, and energy efficiency."

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