The forecast is slightly solar for Frankfort’s energy future.

The Frankfort Plant Board may be adding solar power to its portfolio if a proposal to purchase a small amount through the Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA) passes muster.

On Tuesday, the directors of the Frankfort Plant Board voted 3-2 to use consultant Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) to vet a proposed power-purchase agreement procured through KyMEA, of which FPB is a member.

For over a year KyMEA has been soliciting and weighing offers from renewable-energy providers to help balance its coal-heavy energy portfolio. At present, the municipal utility consortium’s portfolio consists of a 10-year deal to buy 100 megawatts of capacity from Big Rivers Electric Co. (BREC), a three-year deal to buy 100 MW of capacity from Joppa, Illinois-based Dynegy and a 10-year deal to buy 90 MW of capacity from Paducah Power System. BREC and Joppa derive their power from coal, while Paducah does so from natural gas, say KyMEA’s consultants.

In October, KyMEA said it had narrowed the list of contenders to five solar power finalists, ranging in capacity from 25 MW to 50 MW. That list that has since been whittled to one. KyMEA board members will vote on whether to go with that supplier in August.

On Tuesday, FPB directors bickered late into the evening over whether to continue using E3, which is based in San Francisco, to vet KyMEA agreements and over whether a consultant is necessary at all. Last June, E3 Director Michele Chait presented an analysis that was highly critical of FPB’s signed agreements of KyMEA.

“We keep paying E3 to criticize us — to criticize our Kentucky organization and Kentucky cities and what they’ve agreed,” said board member Ralph Ludwig, noting that FPB had paid E3 close to $65,000 so far.

Vice Chair Walt Baldwin, who has led the effort to revisit the KyMEA agreements, disagreed. He noted that fellow KyMEA member Owensboro Municipal Utilities has so far opted not to buy power through the agency and pointed to the critical analyses of “internationally recognized” consulting companies and law firms.

“All of those folks agreed that it was higher cost, higher risk and reduced local control,” said Baldwin.

Some board members, including Dawn Hale, have called into question the independence of E3’s analysis after emails revealed that Baldwin stayed in near-daily contact with E3. Baldwin asked the consultant to consider pointed questions, made suggestions and served as the conduit through which most of the data that E3 considered passed.

The board ultimately voted 3-2 Tuesday to allow E3 to use up to $5,300 — the amount remaining in FPB’s budget for E3’s work — to vet the solar power agreement, as long as all communication with the consultant goes through interim General Manager David Denton. Ludwig and Hale voted against the motion.


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