Archive for September, 2009

China: Learning Something About Wind Power that We Already Know

Baseload power. Who remembers that terminology? Simply put, it is the minimum amount of power that a utility or distribution company must make available to its customers, or the amount of power required to meet minimum demands based on reasonable expectations of customer requirements.

Renewable energy is a great form of electricity production…when the weather conditions are favorable. But, what if the weather doesn’t cooperate? In reading through The Wall Street Journal, I came across an article that details some of the issues that China has encountered from expanding new wind projects. From the Journal:

Part of the reason is that wind power depends on, well, the wind. To safeguard against blackouts when conditions are too calm, officials have turned to coal-fired power as a backup.

China wants renewable energy like wind to meet 15% of its energy needs by 2020, double its share in 2005, as it seeks to rein in emissions that have made its cities among the smoggiest on Earth. But experts say the country’s transmission network currently can’t absorb the rate of growth in renewable-energy output. Last year, as much as 30% of wind-power capacity wasn’t connected to the grid. As a result, more coal is being burned in existing plants, and new thermal capacity is being built to cover this shortfall in renewable energy.

The information in this story is nothing new to us, we’ve been saying all along that we need a balanced approach to meeting electricity demands both here and around the globe.

At the very least, this story should be considered a “must read” for anyone who thinks that adding nothing but wind power is the best way to meet our growing electricity demand. Until renewable energy sources can provide baseload power, coal remains uniquely situated to provide 24/7 electricity in this and most other countries.

The Boxer-Kerry bill: the next chapter

ACCCE supports the adoption of a mandatory federal program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that such a program needs to focus on three primary goals – 1) bringing new technologies to the marketplace to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 2) driving down the cost of deploying these technologies so as to protect access to affordable, reliable energy, and 3) promoting greater energy independence through use of domestic fuels like coal to meet growing energy needs. Our support for this type of bill has never wavered.

Tomorrow will be another major milestone in the journey of developing a federal climate policy. Sen. Barbara Boxer (chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) and Sen. John Kerry (chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) will release their proposed bill that will now begin to be considered by various Senate committees. At least six committees in the Senate will have jurisdiction over the bill.

We’ll approach tomorrow’s release of the Boxer-Kerry bill as we have with other similar proposals in the past. We’ll take the time to analyze the bill to determine if it meets our legislative principles. If there are areas where we feel that improvements to the bill are needed – we’ll work constructively with those in the Senate toward achieving the joint goal of ultimately passing a bill that will reduce emissions, ensure economic growth and prosperity, and protect America’s energy security.

You can stay informed on this debate by staying engaged here on our site, or if you want to join our advocacy army (now over 225,000 community leaders from all across the U.S.), click here.

Government funding for CCS: Where’s the money going?

Combating climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time, and we know it’s going to take myriad resources and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, the Obama administration and Congress have their sights set on deploying advanced clean coal technologies like carbon capture and storage(CCS)—seen by experts as critical to meeting global emissions reductions goals—and are anteing up accordingly.

Here’s what’s been funded as of late:

• Just last month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $27 million to CCS university programs (check out our university spotlights to learn more) to evaluate the risks of storing carbon dioxide in the ground.

• The DOE also set aside $8.4 million for a project that would go into training plant developers, engineers, researchers and scientists on the technology behind CCS in seven different regions across the country.

• A few weeks ago, the DOE gave an Arizona company $70.5 million from the stimulus package to research alternative ways to use carbon dioxide, including feeding it to algae.

As the DOE has found, investing in clean coal technologies has paid off in the past and we know it will again. With the government’s continued support, we can quickly and safely deploy advanced technologies like CCS and drive down the initial cost of deployment—good news for the environment and rate payers.

Keep an eye out for future DOE grants on our news page, and give us your take by posting a comment, or chiming in on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

An addendum to Thomas Friedman’s ‘New Sputnik’

Thomas Friedman’s Sept. 26 editorial in the New York Times is essentially correct: There are huge market opportunities associated with bringing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to the marketplace. I also agree with him that the U.S. should and still can be at the forefront in seizing those opportunities.

How do we accomplish this goal?

First, it requires a commitment of private industry and government to bring these technologies to the market. Until recently, the federal government’s investment has been lacking. Earlier this year the economic stimulus package allocated funds and took a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. That is why our organization strongly supported provisions in the Waxman-Markey bill that included significant funding for CCS. And now that the Senate is looking at developing its own bill, including significant funding for CCS is critical.

Also, to advance technology, you’ve got to build projects. Here in the U.S., we have special interest groups that oppose coal at every turn. In many cases, these groups’ efforts to halt new advanced coal plants hinder progress on developing the technologies that meet the environmental standards they so strongly support. There lots of characters in the Chinese alphabet and no combination of them creates a word like NIMBY (Not In My Backyard). If we’re serious about leading the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then the U.S. needs to be leading the way in building projects that increase efficiency and test new technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2), as opposed to hoping that clogging up the system will result in coal use going away. That is not an effective climate strategy.

We can bring new technologies to the marketplace, drive down the cost of using those technologies to capture and store CO2, and ensure that American consumers have the benefit of reduced emissions, affordable, reliable energy, and sustained economic growth. That is the type of climate policy we support, and one that I feel certain most Americans believe can happen.

China and U.S. working together to address CCS costs

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that China could face as much as $400 billion in costs over a 30-year period to install systems to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and sequester it underground.

The publication described these costs as “staggering” – and they’re right. Deploying carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology on a commercial scale is expensive. And we’ve long said—and demonstrated—that private-public partnerships are one of the best ways to drive down the cost to deploy new technologies.

Of course, other partnerships are beneficial as well. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that warrants a global solution. In fact, during his summer trip to China, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said, “I know we can accomplish more by working together than by working alone.”

By teaming up on technologies like CCS, we could develop large-scale, emissions-reducing solutions more quickly—helping us meet global emissions reduction goals that much faster.

Bloomberg reports that the U.S. and China have already begun negotiations on a two-way agreement to reduce emissions in preparation for the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

It’s reassuring to know that we’ll be attending the summit fully armed with realistic solutions to one of the most important issues of our time.

A veritable space race for carbon capture and storage

With the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen just around the corner, the clock is ticking for companies that want to deploy the world’s first commercial scale carbon and capture sequestration (CCS) plant.

In fact, CCS has almost become a modern-day space race, with companies in the U.S., China, Germany and other countries vying to make history with the latest advancement in clean coal technology.

And who’s to blame them? The construction of a commercial CCS plant would bring any country great prestige – and it would establish the nation as a leader in technology, innovation and climate change mitigation.

Currently, there are three large-scale CCS projects worth noting:

1. The U.S.’ FutureGen: This past summer, the U.S. Department of Energy gave this Illinois clean coal plant the green light to start construction and allotted $1 billion in funding to the project from the stimulus package. But the FutureGen Alliance still needs 11 more members by 2010 before they can proceed with construction.

2. China’s GreenGen: Houston-based energy company Future Fuels has teamed up with a Chinese power company to construct GreenGen, a 250-megawatt coal-based electricity plant using CCS technology. The plant is currently under construction and will go online in 2011.

3. Germany’s Schwarze Pumpe plant: European utility Vattenfall is behind this project in Germany. While still at the demonstration phase, the company says it’s “an important milestone to reach the goal of commercial concepts for carbon capture and storage at coal fired power plants by 2015-2020.”

As you can see, the U.S. has a little catching up to do, but with President Obama’s support of clean coal technology and our past success with clean coal technologies, we’re confident that we’ll be one to rise to the top.

Breaking news from Arkansas

Today, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission denied a motion by the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society to halt work on American Electric Power’s John W. Turk power plant, located 15 miles northeast of Texarkana.

The groups argued that a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring a Kentucky-based utility to provide an analysis of the environmental impact of its proposed plant meant that American Electric Power had to stop building its plant until it had completed a similar analysis.

The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission disagreed.

Yet again, it seems that these kinds of lawsuits are just another ploy by the Sierra Club and others to do what they have described as “clogging up the system,” in efforts to prevent the construction of new, advanced coal-based power plants used to meet America’s growing demand for electricity.

If the Turk plant sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it profiled in television spots and webisodes featuring our friend, Venita McCellon-Allen. In fact, you can see Venita on site at the Turk plant in this video.

Your ideas: How do we protect poor countries from climate and energy issues?

After the first day of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, one thing is becoming very clear: we need much more discussion about global funding for poor countries that would be hit the hardest by increased energy prices.

According to The Canadian Press, “[T]he G20 has yet to make good on earlier promises that leaders will create a substantial climate-change fund for poor countries. International organizations have said that the developing world needs at least $150 billion a year to get to a point where they could start cutting emissions, and the G20 is nowhere near committing that amount.”

But the question is, with G20 leaders meeting for the third time in less than a year, mainly to resolve the global financial crisis, what is the best way to fund this massive program while still keeping global economies on the upswing? Since global leaders seem to be at an impasse on this issue, we thought maybe some of our readers could weigh in on the subject.

So, the question is: how would you go about reducing global CO2 emissions while keeping an eye on energy prices here in the U.S., while at the same time, setting up proper funding for poorer countries around the world?

We’re curious to hear your responses.