Archive for December, 2010

A Practical Look at Reducing Emissions

The Contra Costa Times has a good perspective on how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain a balanced energy mix. California gets little of its electricity from coal power, but also has the ninth highest energy prices in the nation.

Coal-powered plants provide half of the world’s electricity, 46 percent of the electricity in the United States and 70 percent of China’s.

Even the most optimistic projections of the development of solar and wind power have them producing less than 15 percent of America’s or China’s energy needs.

The Times notes that coal means affordable, reliable energy, which is why the world has been using it for so long.

Coal will be with us because it is abundant, cheap and is located in the nations that use it. The top four coal-reserve countries are the United States, Russia, China, and India, which together have 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 60 percent of its coal.

The good news is that there really is such a thing as “clean coal.” That may seem like a contradiction, but the United States and China have been cooperating for several years on developing coal-burning plants that prevent almost all of the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

You’ve heard a lot from us about the continuing advances of clean coal technology, and have seen the data showing the huge reductions in emissions from coal-powered electricity. By continuing on this path and nurturing the researchers working on these advancements, we can reduce emissions further while keeping the foundation of our economy strong.

All efforts to produce cleaner energy must continue, including the use of solar, wind, nuclear and someday fusion power. But, at least for the next few decades, preventing carbon dioxide levels from rising to more dangerous levels will depend heavily on developing and building clean coal power plants.

Read the full editorial over at the Contra Costa Times.


Sunflower Holcomb Plant Moves Forward

Good news coming out of Kansas Thursday, where the state’s Department of Health and Environment approved the air quality permit for Sunflower’s Holcomb plant expansion project.

We’ve been following the progress of the Holcomb expansion closely. Once complete, the 895 megawatt coal-fueled unit will add economic activity of nearly $350 million to the Kansas economy! And it will do it cleanly.

In the New York Times, Greenwire notes:

John Mitchell, the acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the facility would be the cleanest coal plant in Kansas history, releasing about 40 percent less emissions than the power company had proposed in an earlier application.

As the AP and the Topeka Capital-Journal point out, the plant expansion has strong support from state legislators from both parties. They understand that the Sunflower Holcomb plant will bring much-needed jobs to the state, and will boost the economy in these uncertain times.

Kansas business leaders, union members, and legislators like Kansas State Sen. Karin Brownlee shared with us just what the plant means for their region:

Follow our Factuality Tour stop in Holcomb, Kansas to meet more of the people who will benefit from the Sunflower expansion.


Venita McCellon-Allen of AEP: Working To Bring Reliable Electricity to Our Economy

Last week, Steve showed us why securing baseload power with affordable sources of energy like coal is so critical to our economy, especially in Kansas where the Sunflower Holcomb plant expansion would be providing reliable electricity to that region.

This week, we want to re-introduce you to Venita McCellon-Allen, Executive Vice President at American Electric Power. With rising energy demand in this country, especially in residential areas, Venita explained to us why her responsibility is to always keep the lights on and provide baseload power to AEP’s customers:

As Venita says, “We build plants to meet our customers’ expectations. And we have to meet that expectation for reliable electricity in an affordable way. Coal helps us do that.”

The important thing to remember is that coal isn’t here to replace any other fossil fuel or renewable sources of energy. Coal is here to add to America’s energy source portfolio, and clean coal technologies give our most reliable source of energy less of an environmental footprint. According to Venita, “what the future brings is a portfolio of supply options” to serve our economy.

Click here to hear more of Venita’s story.


By The Numbers: Emissions from Coal-Based Electricity Down 83.7 Percent

With so much discussion these days about the best approach to reducing specific emissions from power plants, we thought it would be good to take a look back at the past four decades to see what the coal-based electricity industry has done to improve its environmental footprint.

Coal-Based Electricity Emissions

Check out the graphic above. From 1970 to today, growth has skyrocketed in America on three different levels. The U.S. has had:

  • 48 percent growth in population
  • 180 percent growth in the use of coal for electricity generation, and
  • 209 percent growth in gross domestic product

Even with all this growth, including a near tripling of the use of coal to generate electricity, the industry has used technology and innovation to make significant emissions reductions. From 1970 to 2008, according to the EPA, the coal-based electricity industry has had:

  • 56.6 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions
  • 38.7 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions, and
  • 93.1 percent reduction in emissions of particulate matter

The coal-based electricity industry has had a total of 83.7 percent reduction in criteria pollutants since 1970. This is through clean coal technologies like SO2 scrubbers, NOx control technology and electrostatic precipitators for particulate matter.

And the future is equally bright! Read more on carbon capture and storage for what is next in clean coal.


The Coal Wire: Historic Investments in CCS

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu addressed the U.S. Center in Cancun as part of the United National Climate Change Conference. Highlighting the need for more multinational collaborations on clean energy and low-carbon technologies, Chu reviewed what our country is doing when it comes to investing in carbon capture and storage technologies:

“In terms of carbon capture and sequestration, we have a number of projects. Over 10 major demonstration projects [have been funded by] $4 billion in federal dollars. But the remarkable thing is that money has been matched with about $7 billion from the private sector, to develop various ways to, in high carbon-producing industries or power, to actually capture the carbon and sequester it. And we have many experiments now starting where we’re talking about capturing something like a million to a million and half tons carbon per year.”

You can watch Secretary Chu’s full speech here.

In this edition of The Coal Wire, we feature how the United States is continuing its collaboration on clean energy technologies and highlight the latest international success stories in carbon capture and storage:

U.S. Department of State – U.S.-Canada Energy Consultative Mechanism Meets (12/6): The Department of State and the Department of Energy hosted the annual U.S.-Canada Energy Consultative Mechanism (ECM) meeting on December 2 with representatives from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) … The ECM serves as a means to review issues of mutual opportunity and concern. This year’s discussion focused on the future of North American natural gas markets, offshore drilling, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and efforts to promote energy efficiency, develop renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in both countries.

The Scotsman – Scotland Takes Lead in Developing Carbon Capture Technology (12/7): “A blueprint for the worldwide implementation of ground-breaking technology to store harmful greenhouses gases underground is to be created in Scotland. Energy minister Jim Mather said the Global CCS Institute had asked the Scottish Government to develop a toolkit to help nations test the strength of regulations surrounding carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), which stops carbon gases from coal-fired power stations being released in the atmosphere.”

ABC Rural – World’s First Carbon Capture and Storage for Central Queensland (12/7): “A central Queensland power plant plans to trial world first clean coal technology by September next year. The Callide A power station outside Biloela will capture the carbon from coal used to generate electricity and pump it deep underground. The world’s power stations are watching on as this small plant prepares to generate electricity with almost no carbon. It will do this using a special combustion process known as oxy-fuel.”

Click here to learn more about carbon capture and storage technologies.


Securing Baseload Power Means Growth for Our Economy

Yesterday, we showed you how the Sunflower Holcomb plant expansion would be create jobs in Kansas while using state-of-the-art emissions-control systems that are the model of future coal-fueled electricity generation.

Yet jobs aren’t the only way the Holcomb expansion would benefit our economy. In the following video, Sunflower Electric COO Kyle Nelson, explains to me what baseload power is, and why coal is an important source of energy to keep baseload power affordable.

Electricity is produced in baseload power and peaking power. Baseload power is the energy necessary to keep the electricity grid energized and meet a constant demand. Peaking power is energy that comes on and off throughout the day, when electricity usage and energy demand goes up. Peaking power can use intermittent power sources like solar and wind that produce electricity only when there’s sufficient direct sunlight or sufficient sustained wind speed. And while using renewable sources like solar and wind to diversify our peaking power is a great option when conditions allow, baseload power must use more reliable fuels such as coal, which can provide energy 24 hours a day.

As State Senate Commerce Committee Chair Karin Brownlee points out in the video, affordable baseload power through the use of coal means more economic growth for Kansas and all of America:

“Kansas needs what we call baseload power,” Brownlee said. “When you have an adequate source of power, you can grow your economy. You can recruit new industries to come that might utilize a lot of power.”

To learn more about how coal can provide the affordable baseload power American families and businesses need, read Keeping Electricity Prices Low.


Let’s Bring More Clean Energy Jobs to Kansas

As winter begins and the year comes to a close, many Americans are hoping for two things, a boost to their local economy and for staples like food, heating and electricity to stay affordable. Two months ago, we released a study showing just how beneficial the Sunflower Holcomb plant expansion would be for the Kansas economy, but we also wanted to find out how the people of Hays feel about the project. So we went there to do just that.

The team and I traveled to Hays and talked to people who would benefit from the Holcomb power plant expansion like small business owners and residents. The expansions planned for the plant will put in to place the most up-to-date emissions-reduction systems, which will make Holcomb among the cleanest in the nation on completion.

In this video, I talk to Sunflower Electric COO Kyle Nelson, who shares with us the state-of-the-art emissions-control systems planned for the plant. I also caught up with Rich Kramer, life-long Hays resident and owner of local business Insurance Planning, Inc., and Karen Dreiling, who relies on affordable electricity to run her store, The Furniture Look.

On top of the advanced clean coal technologies that are going to make the current plant one of the cleanest in the nation, the Holcomb expansion also means jobs jobs jobs for Western Kansas. State Senate Commerce Committee Chair Karin Brownlee knows how important jobs are for her state, and shared with me here how necessary the Holcomb expansion is for Kansas’ economic health.

Heading off to Emporia, Kansas, I also talked to Richard Taylor and David Kendrick of the Kansas State Building & Constructions Trades Council. Taylor says that this “once in a career type project” will benefit “every corner of this state.”

“Projects like this do a lot of things besides just build the building,” Kendrick adds. “The people that come to the job site earn a living wage and they spend it in the local economies, local businesses, local restaurants. The school districts will see a huge impact in their funding because the people working in that area.”

In fact, the annual economic activity is expected to near $350 million upon completion of the plant according to Kansas State University economists.

We’ve heard similar stories elsewhere in our Factuality tour. Check out the full coverage of our trip to Kansas and our past stops here.


All New AmericasPower.org

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may have noticed that Behind the Plug recently got a facelift! The redesign comes on the heels of the launch of an all new AmericasPower.org.

Make sure to bookmark America’s Power.org for all your clean coal technology research and news needs, and check out what we’ve changed!

A few of my favorite parts of the site are the interactive infographics explaining how clean coal technologies remove pollutant emissions from flue gas. In another infographic, we explain how carbon dioxide is captured and stored safely underground.

Once you’ve had a chance to look around our new site, tell us what you think here in the comments, over on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

And remember, Get Involved and tell your friends and legislators how clean coal technology is reducing emissions from America’s most abundant and reliable energy source.