The (Jan. 24 Journal) article regarding plans Tri-State Generation and Transmission has for a 200 MW solar facility near Grants is interesting. We have been told over and over by environmental groups that once we shut down coal-fired power plants, those employees who lose their jobs will be able to find high-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry.
We know from the article that more than 100 employees at the Escalante power plant will lose their jobs, and possibly 40 or so will lose their jobs at the Lee Ranch coal mine, which supplies coal to Escalante. This loss of jobs and the associated support jobs will devastate the Grants/Milan area, which never really recovered from the collapse of the uranium mining industry in the 1980s.
The article did not state how many of those power plant and coal mine employees will be able to find permanent jobs at the solar power facility, only mentioning it “won’t offer many permanent positions.” If we assume there may be 20 permanent positions available, that leaves as many as 120 former employees needing jobs. For those lucky enough to get a job at the solar plant, will they be paid as well as they were at the Escalante Station and coal mine, and receive the same benefits such as paid retirement, matching 401-K plans and health care benefits? I very much doubt it.
In the series the Journal published recently regarding the pending closure of the PNM San Juan Generating Station, one of the main concerns of the PNM employees is not being able to find a job paying what they earn now and keeping the benefits they have.
One thing not mentioned in the article is the status of the cardboard recycling plant near the Escalante Station. When I worked at the Escalante Station it provided steam to the recycling plant for its processes. Will this plant also end up closing when Escalante closes since it will lose its supply of steam? If so, how many jobs will be lost there?
I understand Tri-State needs to consider economics and costs of its power sources, and the Energy Transition Act passed last year is pushing utilities to retire coal-fired power plants. But it is clearly obvious based on this article most of the people affected will not find new jobs in the renewable energy industry.