Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



John Lewis
John Lewis

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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

May 15, 2007

NIU says ‘clean coal’ power plant
makes economic sense

Springfield, Ill. — A study released Tuesday, May 15, by the Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University found that a proposed “clean coal” power plant makes good economic sense for Taylorville, Ill.

“Construction of the Taylorville Energy Center will create more than 1,500 construction jobs, plus hundreds of permanent mining and power plant jobs,” said John Lewis, an NIU economist who also serves as associate vice president for NIU Outreach. Lewis was the lead author of the report.

“Our analysis indicates central Illinois will also benefit from a regional ripple effect that will create hundreds of new positions in industries such as retail, hospitality and health care,” Lewis said.

New technology

The unique plant (which is being proposed by Tenaska, an international power development company and energy marketer, with expertise in power plant development) would be the first industrial-scale coal gasification power plant in the world.

The coal gasification process converts the coal to a gas and pollutants are separated and removed before the gas is burned. Supporters say it would be among the most environmentally friendly, commercially sized coal plants in the world. The process makes the type of high-sulfur coal, which is common to Illinois, an economically viable fuel source again. The plant could be up and running as early as 2012.

Producing power … and jobs

According to the NIU study titled “The Economic Impacts of an Electric Power Generation Facility in Illinois,” the plant will generate not only power but also employment. Lewis estimates that once the facility is operational it will create 663 direct and indirect jobs in Christian County resulting in annual economic activity of $355.9 million.

The report also suggests that the power plant will help revitalize the sagging Illinois coal mining industry which has suffered as environmental regulations prompted power plants to switch to low-sulfur coal mined in the western U.S. With an estimated annual coal consumption of 1.5 million tons, the plant is expected to create 416 direct and indirect jobs related to coal mining in Illinois, generating $78.5 million in annual economic activity for that industry.

Illinois residents in other parts of the state also would stand to benefit from the plant. Lewis estimates that lower-priced power generated by the plant could create $190 million a year in gross savings to Illinois customers during its first eight years of operation.

Results of the report were presented at a May 15 press conference in Springfield, Ill., where supporters of the Taylorville project were seeking support for the Clean Coal Program Law which would allow power developers to enter into long-term contracts with Illinois utilities to sell their power. Illinois law currently prohibits such contracts. 

Unique RDI research capabilities

Tenaska approached NIU’s Regional Development Center to perform the economic impact study based upon the center’s reputation for excellence in the field. Few other entities – private or public – are equipped to do the sort of in-depth analysis and projections regarding the direct and indirect economic impacts of commercial ventures in the state.

“One of the primary purposes of RDI is to assist those trying to keep the state’s economy moving in the right direction. Our ability to provide an in-depth analysis of the economic impacts of projects like this can be a valuable tool to policy makers,” said Lisa Bergeron, a senior researcher at RDI who oversaw the research project. “We have a unique blend of expertise and tools developed over the last decade, to handle these types of projects.”

Highlights of “The Economic Impacts of an Electric Power Generation Facility in Illinois,” include:

Construction

  • Create 1,500 full-time and part-time jobs with 793 additional jobs created in industries such as manufacturing, health care, retail and professional services
  • $1.1 billion in direct and indirect economic activity
  • Total employee compensation of $334 million
  • $9.9 million in total state and local tax revenue

Ongoing operations

  • Create 663 direct and indirect jobs in Christian County
  • $355.9 million in annual economic activity
  • Average annual gross savings to Illinois customers of $190 million during the first eight full years of operation
  • Total annual employee compensation of $24.3 million, with average power generation facility employee compensation of $57,059 plus benefits, more than twice the county average of $26,415
  • $4.47 million in annual state and local tax revenue

Coal mining

  • Create 416 direct and indirect jobs
  • $78.5 million in annual economic activity
  • Total annual employee compensation of $20.1 million, with average mining industry employee compensation of $67,650 including benefits, more than two and a half times the county average of $26,415
  • Plant operations will require more than 1.5 million tons of Illinois coal annually $9.2 million in annual state and local tax revenue

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