Colstrip as a Case Study in Coal-Fired Power ‘Falling Out of Favor’

first_imgColstrip as a Case Study in Coal-Fired Power ‘Falling Out of Favor’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Mike Dennison for KXLH (Helena):The operator and part-owner of three Colstrip power plants painted a sobering picture Wednesday of their future, telling Gov. Steve Bullock the company is losing money on Colstrip and that the “current situation can’t continue” indefinitely.Paul Farr, CEO for Talen Energy, said the plants are producing relatively low-cost power, but regional electricity prices are so low that Colstrip can’t match those prices and make money.Talen has been trying for several years to sell its share of the Colstrip plants and is losing money on them now, he told MTN News.Farr and executives for two other owners of the Colstrip plants – Puget Sound Energy and NorthWestern Energy – met at the state Capitol with Bullock, to discuss the besieged plants’ future and possible ownership options.In addition to competitive pressure, coal-fired power also is falling out of favor with consumers and political forces in Washington and Oregon. Both states, which have utilities that own portions of the Colstrip plants, passed bills this year to set the stage for ending consumption of coal-fired power in their respective states.Farr suggested the only possible buyer for its share of the Colstrip plants would be a regulated utility, which has a “portfolio” of various types of power whose sale could offset losses from coal-fired power.But Bob Rowe, the CEO of NorthWestern Energy, Montana’s largest regulated electric utility, indicated the company isn’t really interested. “We have the portfolio we need,” he said.Bullock said he wants to have a “candid discussion” about ownership options for the southeastern Montana plants, which employ 360 people and have a capacity of 2,100 megawatts.Farr said any time there is a “concentrated position of economic activity,” such as the company town of Colstrip, plans should be made to deal with impacts of future change.Colstrip power-plant owner: Losing money, and the future is not brightlast_img read more

U.S. Coal-Fired Generation Dropped to 23.8% of Total Mix in March

first_imgU.S. Coal-Fired Generation Dropped to 23.8% of Total Mix in March FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Jim Levesque for Platts Coal Trader:Coal dropped to 23.8% of US utility-scale power generation in March as natural gas and renewables continued to grab a greater market share, US Energy Information Administration data shows. The agency’s latest Electric Power Monthly report released Wednesday shows coal generation totaled 72.3 GWh in March, down 22.2% from February and 33.4% from the same month a year ago. Gas comprised 34.1% of the total electricity mix with almost 103.5 GWh. Gas generation increased 5.2% from February and was up 4.4% from the year-ago month. Renewables continued to climb closer to coal’s power output, accounting for 19.2%, or 58.2 GWh, of total generation. Renewables generation climbed 9.2% from February and was up 18.6% from the year-ago month. Total US power generation came to 303.8 GWh in March, down 3.3% from February. Through the first three months of the year, coal has accounted for 28.7% of generation compared to 32.1% from gas. In the year-ago period, coal made up 36% of generation compared to 28.6% from gas. Stockpiles grow Power sector coal stocks totaled 194.3 million st in March, up 2.8% from February and up 25.4% from the year-ago month. Stockpiles are 16.4% above the five-year average. Subbituminous stocks totaled 108.3 million st, up 1.5% from February, up 28.4% from the year-ago month and 24% above the five-year average. Full item ($): Coal drops to 23.8% of US generation mix in Marchlast_img read more

U.S. Coal Production at Lowest Level Since 1981 Miners’ Strike

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Clifford Crauss for the New York Times:Coal production in the United States is plummeting to levels not seen since a crippling coal strike 35 years ago, according to a report released by the Energy Department on Friday.The coal industry in recent years has been plagued by bankruptcies as power utilities increasingly moved to replace coal with cheap natural gas and renewable sources, like solar and wind energy. Coal was once the dominant source of the nation’s electricity generation, but consumption of the fossil fuel has declined by nearly a third since its peak in 2007.Once gradual, the decline in coal mining appears to be picking up momentum. Coal production in the United States of 173 million tons for January through March was the lowest in any quarter since 1981. The quarterly production total represented a 17 percent decline from the previous quarter, the steepest quarter-over-quarter drop in nearly 32 years.Part of the reason for the production drop were the above-normal temperatures through much of the nation in recent months, which lowered electricity demand. Utilities had stockpiled an additional 34 million tons of coal during the final months of 2015, anticipating a colder winter.But the Energy Department noted broader forces at play in its brief report.“Coal production has declined because of increasingly challenging market conditions for coal producers,” the report said. “In addition to complying with environmental regulations and adapting to slower growth in electricity demand, coal-fired generators also are competing with renewables and with natural gas-fired electricity generation during a time of historically low natural gas prices.”The biggest declines in production came in the Powder River basin of Montana and Wyoming.The Obama administration has suspended new coal leasing on federal lands, and worked to tighten environmental regulations on burning of coal. Those efforts have been challenged in the courts, but could eventually gain momentum as Washington complies with commitments made last year during climate talks in Paris.In recent years, coal companies have pinned their hopes on exports, as coal remains an important power source in Asia and Europe. But slow economic growth and low international coal prices, also depressed by the increase in liquefied natural gas trade, has contributed to a decline in coal exports.The Energy Department recently reported that coal exports in March were 32 percent below the same month in 2015. The department forecasts an annual coal export decline of 10 percent this year and 12 percent in 2017.Full article: Coal Production Plummets to Lowest Level in 35 Years U.S. Coal Production at Lowest Level Since 1981 Miners’ Strikelast_img read more

Japan’s Mitsui Group To Reconsider Financing Policies For Coal Projects

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. has signaled it may rethink its financing of coal-fired power projects, a small step for the nation’s banking industry, which lags global rivals shifting away from one of the most-polluting fuels.The Tokyo-based bank indicated this week that it may become the first major Japanese bank to tighten its stance on such funding. “Coal-fired power generation is relatively low cost and has a big impact on climate change, so we are considering to make our financing policy stricter,” President Takeshi Kunibe told reporters during an earnings briefing on Monday.Japanese firms have lagged efforts across global finance to align their businesses with climate change goals. Sumitomo Mitsui and its two main domestic rivals remain among the world’s biggest funders of coal power projects, according to transparency advocacy group BankTrack, even as a growing number of global lenders move away from the practice. HSBC Holdings Plc said last month it will stop funding new power plants using the fossil fuel, joining similar pledges by Societe Generale SA and Deutsche Bank AG.[Kunibe’s] remarks come after Japan’s Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co. said last week that it won’t provide financing for overseas coal works. That marked the first time a Japanese financial institution has announced such a policy, according to environmental groups including Greenpeace Japan.Japanese banks have been faulted by groups including 350.org and Kyoto-based Kiko Network for their support for coal-fired power projects, especially ones in developing countries. Sumitomo Mitsui’s main lending unit was ranked fifth among lenders to coal plant developers globally, according to BankTrack. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. was top on the list and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. was second.More: Sumitomo Mitsui Signals It May Curb Coal-Fired Power Financing Japan’s Mitsui Group To Reconsider Financing Policies For Coal Projectslast_img read more

American Electric Power seeks to buy 1,485MW of Oklahoma wind power

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:American Electric Power is asking state regulators for the second time in two years to approve a multibillion-dollar investment into wind power, as it races to capitalize on fleeting federal tax credits.On Monday, AEP announced that its Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) and Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) utilities are seeking regulatory approval to purchase a total of 1,485 megawatts of wind projects being developed by Invenergy. The three projects in Oklahoma were selected through a competitive RFP launched in January, and the roughly $2 billion investment would help save utility customers about $3 billion, net of costs, over 30 years, the Ohio-based utility group said.This is the second attempt in as many years by PSO and SWEPCO to gain approval for a major wind farm investment from utility regulators in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, the four states in which they operate. Last year, Texas regulators rejected a proposal by SWEPCO to purchase 70 percent of the 2-gigawatt Wind Catcher project, which was to be the single-largest wind farm in the country, citing concerns about whether it was putting too much cost risk onto the utility’s ratepayers.AEP announced it was pulling out of the project a day later, saying any further delays could jeopardize the project’s ability to be completed by 2020. That’s the deadline for wind projects to secure 100 percent of the existing federal Production Tax Credit (PTC),which is set to decline to 80 percent for projects completed by the end of 2021, 60 percent for 2022, 40 percent for 2023, and disappear completely by 2024.This does not appear to be an impediment to AEP’s current proposal, however. As described in Monday’s release, a single 199-megawatt farm out of the 1.5 gigawatts to be built would be completed by the end of 2020 and earn the full PTC. The rest would be completed in 2021 and earn the reduced PTC at 80% of the current value.But as Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables analyst Anthony Logan noted in January when AEP put out its RFP, the region where Invenergy plans to build its projects “has just about the cheapest wind in the country.” The new proposal also comes amid a boom for wind power development, according to WoodMac research that predicts the U.S. market will add 23 gigawatts of new capacity through 2020.More: AEP seeks approval for 1.5GW wind development in Oklahoma American Electric Power seeks to buy 1,485MW of Oklahoma wind powerlast_img read more

Australia’s second-largest retirement fund is divesting from thermal coal

first_imgAustralia’s second-largest retirement fund is divesting from thermal coal FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Sydney Morning Herald:Australia’s second-largest superannuation fund is preparing to dump its shares in companies that derive more than 10 per cent of their revenue from thermal coal mining as it embarks on the most aggressive immediate climate push of any large local investor.First State Super, which holds $130 billion [US$90 billion] in retirement savings, is distributing a new climate plan among its members detailing initiatives to shield their money from the threats of global warming, including setting a 30 per cent emissions-reduction target across its investment portfolio by 2023 and a 45 per cent cut by 2030.First State chief executive Deanne Stewart told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald climate change posed the single biggest risk to Australians’ retirement savings, and superannuation investors must “take bold and decisive action now” to safeguard members’ long-term interests.“Climate change clearly poses the most significant risk to investment portfolios over the long term,” she said. “Why we are stepping it up to a much greater degree now is we see that risk front and centre in terms of the impact it is likely to have on investment returns for our members.”The most immediate direct action is to divest all its shareholdings of companies that mine thermal coal – the type of coal used in power generation – by October 2020. Although the plan does not specify which thermal coal miners will be divested, corporate records indicate First State held shares in ASX-listed Whitehaven Coal, Stanmore Coal, New Hope and Washington H. Soul Pattinson in 2019.The next phases of the fund’s strategy – a 30 per cent emissions cut across its entire listed equities portfolio by 2023 and 45 per cent by 2030 – are more immediate goals than those set by many other investors, whose targets stretch out to 2050.[Nick Toscano]More: Top super fund dumps coal miners as emissions cuts intensifylast_img read more

Indian state of Maharashtra sets goal of adding 17GW of renewable energy capacity by 2025

first_imgIndian state of Maharashtra sets goal of adding 17GW of renewable energy capacity by 2025 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ETEnergyworld.com:The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has come out with a renewable energy policy that has set a target of adding 17,385MW renewable energy capacity by 2025. It was cleared by the cabinet on Wednesday. An investment of Rs 75,000 crore is expected in this sector in the coming five years.Other than this, a lot of solar energy will be generated in off-grid mode especially by installing 1 lakh solar farm pumps every year. The current installed capacity is 9,305MW and work on projects having 2,123MW capacity is in progress.The mammoth share of the total target belongs to solar — 12,930MW. Other sources include: wind — 2,500MW, bagasse and agricultural waste — 1,350MW, small hydroelectric — 380MW, municipal solid waste — 200MW and new technologies — 25MW.The policy envisages a government expenditure of Rs4,250 crore for achieving this target. The state will not spend any money on bagasse, hydroelectric and wind energy projects. The entire investment will be done by private players.Increase in solar capacity through various routes has been stated in the policy. 10,000MW solar capacity will be added by setting up plants with minimum 1MW capacity. Private players will be selected through competitive bidding.A major boost for solar rooftop has been envisaged under this policy. The state aims to add another 2,000MW in coming five years. Another 500MW capacity will be added by converting water supply schemes in urban as well as rural areas to solar.[Ashish Roy]More: Maharashtra to add 17,385 MW renewable energy capacity by 2025last_img read more

Switchback Results: Fracking and River Travel

first_imgFracking illustration: Wade MickleyShould Fracking be Banned?Fracking is the controversial practice of fracturing rock with pressurized fluid to extract natural gas. Yes: 69%The idea that we would pump untold amounts of often-carcinogenic chemicals into the ground to release what amounts to just another non-renewable resource is ludicrous.The non-renewable resource we should be most concerned about right now is water, specifically the water that is contaminated and poisoned by the fracking solutions we are so hurriedly pumping into the earth with reckless abandon.All the water that ever has been is on the earth right now. You think fossil fuels are important to our way of life? Try going without water for 72 hours and see how your life is then. We need to end the gold-rush mentality that surrounds natural gas and fracking, before it’s too late. —Jesse Cecil, Richmond, Va.Scientific data does not account for company greed and the shortcuts those companies take in the pursuit of profit. Big corporations have enough power and money to be above laws and regulations. Just look at the people who live near the fracking sites and you will find the answer on whether it’s safe or not. —Rena, Charlottesville, Va.Fracking is far too dangerous, and the natural gas it provides won’t last very long. We must explore renewable, sustainable energy alternatives. Anyone who believes anything else is in denial. —Finn, Floyd, Va.Fracking is deadly and destrucutive. It’s absurd that we’re poisoning communities when we could be investing in healthy, long-lasting, renewable energy. —Amanda Goetz, Asheville, N.C. No: 31%It would be great if we could ban it, but we need it. Without fossil fuels our energy costs will skyrocket, and our economy will worsen. Until we can depend on green energy, we need practices such as fracking. It should be regulated, but it can’t be banned. —Jay, Charlottesville, Va. 1 2last_img read more

Healing a Mountain: Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Gap

first_img“Hold your nose; we’re gettin’ near Palmerton!” Dan Kunkle was talking about a factory town in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Gap, where the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) descends from the Kittatinny Ridge to cross the Lehigh River. It was impossible to hold your breath for the entire car ride past it, but we tried anyway, because the place “stank real bad.”However, my chat with Dan was no joke. He was telling how he and other locals took the region’s biggest environmental liability and built an asset.A CONTROVERSIAL MOONSCAPEI experienced my first big hike in the Gap on a day in the 1970s when the air was clear. I didn’t know why the mountain we were climbing was bare; I just thought it was cool. Void of vegetation, nothing blocked the view. It was as if we were above treeline but without the high-altitude wheeziness or plantlife. Since I’d never known anyone to be outraged or shocked about the condition, I thought all was fine.However, things were very wrong. For almost a century, smelting at the Palmerton Zinc Factory emitted sulfur dioxide (which became sulfuric acid smog) and tons of zinc, lead, cadmium, and arsenic every year. Vegetation died; soil washed away. What remained, including 449 acres of National Park Service (NPS)-managed land around the A.T., couldn’t support life because it was heavily dusted with metals. In 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the scene as a National Priority Superfund site.Palmerton residents, though, felt the EPA could keep its super-polluted judgment; their loyalties remained with the factory. They were grateful to the New Jersey Zinc Company for their town, hospital, school, borough hall (now doubling as a hikers’ hostel), and prosperity. Plant employees even refused to let their grassless yards be tested for fear of further tarnish to the company’s reputation. An unforeseen ecosystem collapse did not represent the company they knew.Through mergers and provisions in the Superfund law, a media giant that never smelted zinc–CBS Corporation Inc.–became responsible for the cleanup. Thousands of acres of steep slopes needed fixing, most with high winds and eroded soil. The site sat for years.Then, in the late 1990s, EPA engineers spread and seeded manufactured soil on an 800-acre section. Although vegetation grew, 60 miles-worth of expensive and undesirable switchback roads had to be built to get it done. The site sat again.Meanwhile Dan Kunkle, a school teacher, and his cohorts were looking for a place to build an environmental education center. Eventually, they acquired toxic land within CBS’s liability area for the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. A team of area residents along with John Dickerson, retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hatched a plan for CBS to get something growing on the Center’s piece of the moonscape. They wanted to spread warm-season grass seed with a crop duster. The project was ambitious in that it needed experts to try something they didn’t think would work, yet it was simple in that it gave control to nature.Dan quit his 28-year teaching job, gave up his tenure and full pension, and took on a 70-hour-per-week workload to keep the mountain-healing dream alive. “Somebody had to do this full time or it would fall apart,” Dan said. Amid strong skepticism, he convinced CBS to try. The seed was scattered, nature chipped in some rain, the mountain turned green, and the community smiled.Still, the A.T.-crossing ridgeline, east and west of Lehigh Gap, remained barren. Eventually, the National Park Service used 70 fenced-in acres near the trail to give 15,000 seedlings protection from hungry deer.COLLABORATION SUCCESSCharlie Root, the site’s original remedial project manager, described his experience with the Center as uniquely collaborative. Plus, he said, “One of the most satisfying outcomes at any of my sites in my 20-year career at EPA is to have an actual environmental education center on a site where people can actually come in and see the progress we’ve made and learn about Superfund and environmental science at the same time.”The Center is A.T.-accessible via the Woodpecker Trail. Hiking north, after crossing the river and then under power lines on the re-ascent, orange blazes on the right take you a half-mile to the building. There you can see historic photos of the factory and the moonscape, get some water, and maybe even meet Dan.The work is still not done. Even the educators are learning as they conduct research to watch nature’s reaction. Still, their story is a shining example of how people can care enough to heal mountains.last_img read more

Trauma Tuesday: Downhill Mountain Biking Fail Edition

first_imgHa. Bike Magic dubbed this the “Most Epic of MTB Fails.” That may be overkill, but this is a fairly awesome fail, and it does have MTB.Downhill mountain biking is a discipline that is taking off here on the East Coast, and for good reason. It looks like a blast, albeit a breakneck, balls-out, super-dangerous blast. The guys that can pull it off make it look easy; the guys that can’t end up in viral videos. This one starts off innocuously enough with a few bros hanging out waiting to drop in. Dude in blue and white takes the lead with confidence as our hero follows with the GoPro. Things are looking good for a hot second as the trail looks buffed and the first drop goes swimmingly for both riders. Then we hit the straight away, and things get interesting…last_img read more