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Panasonic's $4 Billion Coal-Powered Battery Plant Sparks ESG Concerns

  • Panasonic's upcoming 4-million-square-foot battery plant in Kansas will double the utility Evergy's load, requiring significant upgrades to infrastructure.
  • Evergy needs to keep a Lawrence coal-fired power plant operational until 2028 to meet the energy demands of Panasonic's plant set to begin production in 2025/2026.
  • Despite receiving billions in incentives and support, Panasonic faces criticism for the plant's reliance on coal and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Panasonic's new battery plant in Kansas will require an amount of energy equivalent to that used by a small city, forcing a nearby utility to halt the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant. This has sparked criticism that electric vehicle production and electric vehicles aren't 'ESG-friendly.' 

According to The Kansas City Star, citing documents filed by power company Evergy with the Kansas Corporation Commission, Panasonic's 4-million-square-foot plant in Johnson County will double the utility's load and require two new substations and upgrades to 31 miles of transmission lines. 

Documents show Evergy will have to keep a Lawrence coal-fired power plant online until 2028 to meet the new load at the EV battery plant that will be ramped up as production begins at the end of 2025/early 2026. The utility plans to transition from coal to natural gas by the decade's end.  

"Beyond the sheer magnitude of load and load factor, Panasonic's construction schedule, and, in turn, its energy needs, are being planned on a very aggressive schedule. With energy needs starting to ramp in 2024 and full load requirements by 2026, there is urgency to procure capacity and energy to fulfill the expected energy usage schedule," said Kayla Messamore, Evergy's vice president of strategy and planning. 

Currently, no other power generation source in the area can supply enough on-demand power to the Panasonic battery plant. In testimony from Ryan Mulvany, Evergy's vice president of distribution, he said the plant will demand approximately 200 to 250 megawatts (or the equivalent of a small city). 

Despite the $4 billion cost of the factory, the Japanese company is "poised to get as much as $6.8 billion from provisions in last year's federal Inflation Reduction Act," the local paper said in July. The company is expected to receive over $8 billion in federal, state, and local incentives and support the plant in Johnson County. 

Zack Pistora, a lobbyist with the Kansas Sierra Club, called the EV battery plant powered by coal a "shame": 

"Not only are we squandering an opportunity to access local Kansas clean energy resources that invest in our state, but it also is not doing anyone else a favor as far as more greenhouse gas pollution."

By Zerohedge.com

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