An energy provider in Kansas was planning to transition itself away from relying on coal power.
But, instead of following through with those plans, that company, Evergy, will instead stick with coal power for now and will actually raise rates on its customers.
The reason for doing so is quite surprising, too – it needs to meet the energy demands for a new $4 billion manufacturing factory that will build electric vehicle batteries.
The 4 million square-foot factory is being built by Panasonic Energy in De Soto, Kansas. It is going to be among the largest facilities of this kind in the entire United States.
While environmentalists believe that this factory is going to be great for the move to EVs, it’s going to require a lot of energy to work. And that energy is going to be coming from coal – one of the targets of those environmentalists.
Evergy is the utility company that serves the factory. While it was planning to transition off of coal and to natural gas by the conclusion of this year, those plans have been put on hold so it can meet the factory’s demands. Instead, it will continue to use coal from its Lawrence Energy Center through 2028 at least.
Environmentalists are certainly not happy with this decision. In the spring, one of the campaign representatives for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, Ty Gorman, wrote:
“Evergy is doubling down on costly, dirty coal and asking Kansans to foot the bill. Evergy’s business decisions have squandered tens of millions of dollars on coal, causing an estimated 18 premature deaths annually and disproportionately harming Black and LatinX communities.”
It’s not just that Evergy is going to continue burning coal. They’ve also asked the Kansas Corporation Commission for an increase in rates for residential customers in some parts of the state to help them pay for the energy they’ll need to produce for the EV manufacturing plant.
The project was being thought of as an enormous win for Kansas, but now, it’s drawing criticism from officials in Kansas as well as many environmental activists.
In 2022, when the plan was first announced, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said:
“This project will be transformative for our state’s economy, providing in total 8,000 high-quality jobs that will help more Kansans create better lives for themselves and their children. Winning this project shows that Kansas has what it takes to compete on a global scale – and that our pro-business climate is driving the technological innovation needed to achieve a more prosperous and sustainable future.”
Local newspaper The Kansas City Star published a report recently that showed that the EV battery factor will need anywhere from 200 to 250 megawatts of electricity just to operate. That’s equal to roughly how much a small city would need.
In making its case to the KCC for a rate increase, Evergy said that the EV plant will create “near-term challenges from a resource adequacy perspective.”
And the solution to power the factory that produces essential parts for environmentally-friendly vehicles is to use dirty coal.