Carbon Capture at the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC)

We ask that you join us with your citizen voices in raising the following four questions with our Naperville city leaders regarding the carbon capture project at the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) coal plant. This carbon capture project is apparently moving forward without our input as citizen “owners” and apparently also without the oversight and input of our elected city council representatives.

Following our four questions below, you will find our CLEAN position on this PSEC carbon capture project and also further sections to learn more about this project and carbon capture in general.

We encourage you to learn more.  We Naperville are the largest joint owner and consumer in Illinois of PSEC’s coal-fired electricity through our membership and power supply contract with IMEA.

Several quick notes on terminology and acronyms that you may encounter:

  • One of the main operating companies of PSEC is the Prairie State Generating Company LLC (PSGC), and many of the references to the carbon capture project refer to PSGC instead of PSEC.
  • Other names and abbreviations for carbon capture that you may encounter are:
    • CCS for carbon capture and storage, and
    • CCUS for carbon capture utilization and storage

Our Four Questions for our Naperville City Leaders

1. How will Naperville provide the Naperville citizen “owners” of PSEC the opportunity to become “well-informed” about the proposed carbon capture project, when the nine top-level owners, including the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA), continue to use the PSEC confidentiality agreement to block transparency?

This also includes the needs of our city council members who serve as the “board of directors” of our municipal electric utility. How will they be provided the opportunity to be “well-informed” to represent us and to fulfil their fiduciary duties and responsibilities?

2. How will Naperville protect the citizen owners and the “captive” utility ratepayers from the risks of additional capital development costs and additional operational costs from this carbon capture project, such that our electric rates would need to increase?  What are the protections that will be included in the agreement with the separate entity proposal? This also includes legal and litigation costs should the carbon capture project fail to be completed or fail to perform, given the significant risks of failure associated with this project?

3. How will Naperville citizen owners and the utility ratepayers be compensated for any lost opportunity of falling clean energy prices that would financially warrant ramping down PSEC, but which instead will be prevented because it will conflict with the need to operate PSEC to produce the CO2 emissions for the carbon capture operation?

The primary purpose of PSEC is to serve the electric energy needs of the citizens owners and utility ratepayers, and that purpose is at risk of being subverted by the need to produce CO2 for carbon capture purposes.

4. How will Naperville ensure that the overall PSEC operation, including the carbon capture and storage operations, will result in a net total reduction of greenhouse gases as well as other environmental pollutants and damage? This includes the particulate emissions, the coal ash, water pollution, and the methane emissions from Prairie State’s onsite coal mine.

Our CLEAN Position on Carbon Capture at the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC)

We recognize that some manner of carbon capture is now a necessity due to the failure of governments and businesses to take greater action on greenhouse gas reductions, but we also believe that carbon capture to extend the life of the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) coal plant is not an appropriate priority when cleaner and cost-effective alternatives are available right now to begin the PSEC transition off coal.

Scientists tell us that we are on a path that is now unlikely to avoid overshooting our planet’s carbon budget, so carbon capture technology is needed. Regarding carbon capture generally:

  • Direct-air carbon capture will be needed in efforts to remove existing and further CO2 from the atmosphere to bring CO2 levels down to reduce the risks.
  • Clean energy alternatives for heavy industries such as cement and steel have not been fully developed, so carbon capture will need to be deployed in those industries to reduce their emissions.
  • In other cases where we are unable to implement alternatives, carbon capture should be on the table as an option if it can be successfully deployed. (Attempts to deploy carbon capture at coal plants have not been successful at scale, and furthermore do not address the other significant pollution risks from particulate emissions, coal ash, water pollution, and methane emissions from coal mines.)

Specifically, with respect to PSEC, here are some major reasons we oppose the CCS at PSEC:

  • We believe that prudent steps to ramp down coal-fired generation and use cleaner forms of existing energy should be the first step.  From the Rocky Mountain Institute’s 2021 report on PSEC, we learned that almost half of PSEC’s electricity is being “wheeled” to the PJM area of northern Illinois where cleaner capacity and energy resources are already available. (Naperville and 3 other IMEA members: St. Charles, Winnetka, and Rock Falls, are in PJM).
  • From that same RMI report, we also learned that, given industry trends in clean energy costs along with the outstanding debt incurred by PSEC’s owners to construct PSEC, by end of decade it is likely that:
    • [Cleaner energy + PSEC owner debt] Will Be Less Than [Dirty, expensive PSEC energy + PSEC owner debt]
  • From Dr. Al Karvelis and others, we have l earned that risks of failure of the carbon capture project at PSEC are very high:
    • We the citizen “owners” and “captive” ratepayers may end up paying a price for that failure.
    • CCS has never been successfully deployed on such a large-scale coal-fired generator. 
    • CCS will not address the other emissions and toxic pollution that harms our environment and our health.
    • CCS will use additional energy such that there may be no overall CO2 reduction.
    • We have no guarantees that the captured carbon will not be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to extract more fossil fuels.
  • The need to run PSEC coal-fired generators at a high level of operation to meet the needs of the carbon capture technology and the revenue needs for the 45Q credits will likely preclude PSEC owners from replacing any of PSEC’s output with clean energy through seasonal and other ramping down of PSEC when cleaner and less expensive energy is available
  • As U.S. taxpayers we are also paying for those 45Q credits as well as DOE grants which may also pay for the $2 billion in construction costs
  • The long-term pipeline and storage safety risks and costs are being borne by people to benefit the CCUS and fossil fuel industries.
  • The private entity that will “house” the carbon capture operation will be further hidden from citizens and public accountability, when we already have a major lack of transparency problem with PSEC

Further Information on the Prairie State Energy Campus Carbon Capture Project

Our primary sources of information on the PSEC carbon capture project are the PSEC front-end engineering design (FEED) study reports and brief PSEC reports at IMEA board meetings. Lack of transparency by PSEC/IMEA/Naperville remains a huge, ongoing issue. Please see the corresponding section of our pdf file document “Carbon Capture at PSEC” for our further information on the PSEC carbon capture project.

Further Resources to Learn More About Carbon Capture, Including Utilization and Storage

Please see the corresponding section of our pdf file document “Carbon Capture at PSEC” for our list of further resources to learn more about carbon capture.

For our “printed” copy of this webpage, please see our pdf file document “Carbon Capture at PSEC“.