Thursday, May 7, 2020 - 12:57 pm

Gov. Doug Burgum released the following statement today after Great River Energy (GRE), a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative providing power in Minnesota and Wisconsin, announced plans to retire its 1,151-megawatt (MW) coal generating power plant, Coal Creek Station, in Underwood, N.D., during the second half of 2022.

“While this news is disappointing, Lt. Gov. Sanford and I are more determined than ever to find a path forward for Coal Creek Station that preserves high-paying jobs and keeps North Dakota’s most efficient and updated coal-fired plant on the grid to ensure baseload power capacity for our state and the region,” Burgum said. “We remain committed to bringing stakeholders to the table to evaluate all options and find opportunity in this uncertainty. We appreciate GRE’s 40-year history of positive economic impact on the energy and agriculture industries in North Dakota and look forward to collaborative opportunities in the future.”

Coal Creek Station has been in operation since 1979 and has 260 employees. GRE announced that the reduced power generation will be replaced with 1,100 MW of wind energy purchases by the end of 2023, 600 MW of which have been approved for wind projects, mostly located in Minnesota.

The Governor’s Office has been actively engaged in conversations with GRE to transfer or sell Coal Creek Station to third party operators. In a press release today, GRE expressed its willingness to consider opportunities to sell the plant prior to the planned retirement in the second half of 2022.

J.C. Butler, CEO of North American Coal, the operator of the Falkirk Mine near Underwood, ND, which is the lignite supplier to Coal Creek Station, issued a statement today stating that North American Coal is actively engaged in the exploration of options to allow for the transfer of the plant to one or more third parties, which would preserve jobs at both Coal Creek Station and the Falkirk Mine, which employs 480 people.

The State of North Dakota has been an active public partner with private lignite industry partners, by supporting lignite research and clean coal technologies over the years, contributing $30 million from the Lignite Research Fund since 2017 to lignite research projects with a total value of over $92 million, including value-added projects, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) and rare earth studies.