"These units are among the first built by TVA and have served us well over the years. But as times change, TVA must adapt to meet future challenges," TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore told his board yesterday in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the majority of the board signed off on the plan, according to a statement. Installing needed pollution control equipment at these facilities would not be cost-effective, he said.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said TVA's transition sends an important signal to other companies: "This not only can be done, this is being done," she told reporters yesterday.
"The message here," she said, "is that we don't have anything against coal, but we have to reduce the pollution that comes from coal to our air, to our water and on our land."
Other companies are already taking steps to move away from coal.
Other utilities shrink CO2 footprint
North Carolina-based Progress Energy, which announced a $13 billion merger with Duke Energy in January, was among the first out of the box to lay out plans to replace a significant number of older coal-fired units with natural gas. Three combined-cycle gas-burning plants are now under construction or in the planning stages, and Duke and Progress are also waiting for federal regulatory approvals for three new nuclear power stations.
For its part, Duke is among the largest coal users in the country, but if state regulators buy into its plans, company chairman Jim Rogers has said its portfolio will shift to more gas, nuclear and high-efficiency coal plants.
Atlanta-based Southern Co. also expects to get the green light to start construction on two nuclear power plants in Georgia this year. In Kemper County, Miss., Southern is building a coal gasification plant. Meanwhile, just outside of Atlanta, subsidiary Georgia Power is replacing coal-fired units with three 840-megawatt gas units.
The TVA deal put a variety of options on the table to move toward a cleaner energy future. It set up a framework for the construction of up to 4,000 megawatts of natural gas power plants to be part of the mix, according to EPA.
Another option under the settlement agreement would be to move toward burning woody biomass and other waste instead of coal -- though such biomass facilities have been a hot-button issue on Capitol Hill, as some groups question the carbon footprint of burning woody waste and say those plants could drive deforestation.
"There are certainly many ways that we can use biomass to replace fossil fuels including coal and get real reductions in life-threatening carbon dioxide pollution and still protect our natural resources," said Franz Matzner, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center. "What remains to be seen is what is on the table here. ... We need to be very cautious with how we proceed with the catch-all 'biomass,'" he said.
Reporter Joel Kirkland contributed.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500