The Newton Power Station is one of five Illinois coal plants that Dynegy took over last year. (AP Photo/Jim Suhr, File)
Last year, Ameren Corp. basically paid Dynegy Inc. to take five aging coal plants in downstate Illinois off its hands.
Now Dynegy is seeking to make those plants more profitable, through changes to the way they are paid for capacity – potential future generation that can be called on if needed.
Critics of the plan say the changes would mean higher costs for ratepayers with little, if any, improvement in reliability.
The plants provide power to the utility Ameren Illinois, which is part of the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) regional transmission organization (RTO). MISO runs an annual capacity auction wherein generators are paid for power they will be prepared to provide if needed.
[Story updated 3:02 p.m. with PUC decision]
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously today to further study whether to adopt the Environmental Protection Agency’s social cost of carbon calculation.
The state’s Department of Commerce and Pollution Control Agency have both supported adopting the federal carbon price. Currently, the PUC uses carbon cost numbers established in 1997, years prior to new research that suggests the impact of carbon is much greater than previously thought, said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, the St. Paul nonprofit where Midwest Energy News is based.
However, commissioners raised concerns about adopting a metric from an outside agency without further deliberation. Today’s vote means the issue will go to the Office of Administrative Hearings to be argued before a judge.
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Efforts to develop the FutureGen “clean coal” demonstration project in western Illinois cleared a major hurdle last month with a legal victory that will force consumers to purchase the $1.65 billion project’s output.
But a different legal challenge — a Sierra Club complaint filed with the Illinois Pollution Control Board — is keeping jittery investors on the sideline and threatens to derail development of the plant, a FutureGen executive said in testimony filed with the board.
FutureGen 2.0 is the second iteration of a federal clean coal demonstration project originally proposed by the George W. Bush administration more than a decade ago. The original, more ambitious plan was scrapped after years of planning and political rancor because of massive cost increases.
A proposal by FirstEnergy would essentially guarantee a buyer for power from its Sammis power plant near Stratton, Ohio, and other facililties. (Photo by Chris Dilts via Creative Commons)
FirstEnergy says a proposed deal between its regulated Ohio utilities and their unregulated generation affiliate would create a windfall for ratepayers.
However, the utility has been opaque about releasing information that could shed light on this claim.
Meanwhile, environmental and consumer advocates continue to criticize the proposal as a “bailout” for aging power plants that can’t compete on the free market, undermining competition at ratepayers’ expense.
FirstEnergy wants the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to approve a power purchase agreement between its regulated Ohio distribution utilities and their unregulated generation affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.
Under the agreement, the utilities would buy all the electricity from certain plants. The 15-year contract would cover the W.H. Sammis coal plant in Stratton, Ohio, which began operations in 1959, as well as the 36-year-old Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The plan would also cover FirstEnergy’s share of two 1950s-era coal plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.
The E.D. Edwards power plant near Bartonville, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Illinois Sierra Club)
When Houston-based Dynegy Inc. bought the E.D. Edwards coal plant near Peoria, Illinois last year, Gary Hall was among many local residents who were not happy.
Ameren essentially paid Dynegy to take over the financially flailing plants. Given trends affecting coal plants nationwide, including pending EPA carbon rules and competition from cheap natural gas, many environmentalists and energy experts think the E.D. Edwards plant and other aging coal plants may close in coming years.
“This company comes in from Texas, buys plants like this so they can sell the stuff that’s in it and get out,” said Hall, a retired Caterpillar worker and member of UAW Local 974. “It’s like an old car, you get more money from the parts then selling the car. But what’s going to happen is those poor people, our brothers and sisters who work in there will end up with no jobs.”
The University of Dayton prioritizes clean energy, divesting from fossil fuels and focusing research on alternatives like algae. Photo courtesy of University of Dayton.
The University of Dayton is divesting interests in coal and other fossil fuel companies from its $670 million investment portfolio.
The move by Ohio’s largest Catholic university is one of the latest steps in a growing movement to use divestment as a way to address climate change and promote social justice.
To implement the new policy, the University is first divesting its domestic holdings in large coal and fossil fuel companies. After that, it will unload various foreign investments and then restrict future investments in private equity or hedge funds involving fossil fuels.
“For us it really is a university commitment around environmental sustainability, human rights, and our religious mission,” explained University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran.
(Photo by eXtension Farm Energy via Creative Commons)
A policymaking storm is brewing in Michigan as state officials and lawmakers simultaneously devise a plan to comply with proposed federal carbon rules and also revisit the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that expires next year.
It appears regulatory officials and lawmakers are attacking the two issues separately — the Department of Environmental Quality recently appointed an official to lead the process of complying with President Obama’s rules; meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee has a task force studying a new RPS.
Somewhere in the middle will likely be a debate over ramping up renewable energy production and considering other non-renewable power sources to lower emissions. Michigan may have the added benefit of tackling the two issues at the same time, as each process could inform the other.
The Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin, uses combined heat and power to cut energy costs. (Photo by Wisconsin DNR via Creative Commons)
The hulking pulp and paper mills built many decades ago in Wisconsin, Michigan and other Midwestern states have had their share of environmental impacts.
But the mills were decades ahead of the game in adopting technology now seen as an effective tool to fight greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts. That would be the use of combined heat and power (CHP, also known as cogeneration), promoted by President Obama with a 2012 executive order and lauded by environmental and energy efficiency advocates.
Like any industry that generates electricity onsite, paper and pulp mills can take the heat from their generators to create steam that can be used to generate more electricity. More importantly, the heat can also be used directly for mills’ industrial processes, including for drying pulp.
“We were doing this before people were using the term ‘sustainability,’” said Jerry Schwartz, senior director of energy and environmental policy for the American Forest & Paper Association, a trade group. “A lot of it made economic sense.”
(Photo by Joseph Mietus via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
That was the underlying message from two Minnesota agencies in recommending the Public Utilities Commission adopt federal “social cost of carbon” values to help guide utility decisions about electric generation.
A law enacted by the state more than two decades ago requires the PUC to establish “externality” values for carbon dioxide and other power plant pollutants to help shape planning decisions. The commission this year ordered an update to some of the values, including CO2, at the request of clean energy advocates.
The Presque Isle power plant in Marquette, Michigan, receives a subsidy to continue operating amid grid concerns. (Photo by Adam Shoop via Creative Commons)
Scores of coal-fired power plants have been retired and taken off-line in recent years, and coal plant retirements are likely to continue or accelerate as deadlines for federal pollution regulations loom and states respond to the recently-proposed EPA carbon reduction plan.
Clean energy advocates and environmentalists typically cheer the closing of coal plants. But sometimes power plants – whether coal, natural gas or nuclear – are crucial to providing stability on the grid, even if their electricity is not needed to meet demand.
Hence regional transmission organizations (RTOs), the entities which oversee the grid and electricity markets for different regions, have the power to order a plant to keep running even if it is not financially viable.