Planned coal plants dropping like flies


It looks like approval for eight more conventional coal plants now in the pipeline will be delayed and/or cancelled.

This time, the action is taking place in Lansing, Michigan, where Governor Jennifer Granholm has just called for a near-moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants while state agencies consider “all feasible and prudent” alternatives.

In her State of the State address, Governor Granholm also pledged to reduce Michigan’s reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity by 45 percent by 2020–an aggressive goal. She framed the pledge not in terms of greenhouse gases but in terms of dollars:

Instead of spending nearly $2 billion a year importing coal or natural gas from other states we’ll be spending our energy dollars on Michigan wind turbines, Michigan solar panels, Michigan energy-efficiency devices, all designed, manufactured and installed by … Michigan workers.

The governor expects that much of the additional electricity demand will be met by efficiency improvements and distributed renewable energy. She cited the success of a three year-old program which has reduced the Michigan government’s electricity use by 23% while saving taxpayers over $60 million, and also a proposed program to allow individuals and business to increase efficiency with zero upfront charges, to be paid off with monthly energy savings.

Those and other energy and green job programs, the governor said, were responsible for the creation of “55,000 jobs; $4.7 billion of investment; and 84 companies. This despite the recession. Just since August.”

The coal industry of course, had a different opinion. The senior vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) stated early Thursday morning that “the decision by Governor Granholm to delay the process of reviewing air permits for the construction of state-of-the-art clean coal technology power plants in Michigan is regrettable.” He followed that up with: “these projects, assuming that they are approved by the proper permitting agency, could bring economic relief and create jobs for Michigan workers, at a time when the state battles the worst unemployment rate in the nation.”

There are two problems here.

First, of the eight conventional coal projects that have been put on hold, none of them were “clean coal” plants. It is unclear therefore why the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity should need to express its regret, unless of course the ACCCE is just a tone-deaf oxymoronic advertising front set up to put a clean face on dirty industry.

Seriously. If it is going to try to bluff, the ACCCE should learn to keep its cards closer to its chest.

Second, it seems like the ACCCE senior vice president for communications didn’t read Governor Granholm’s speech very carefully. If he had, he would have picked up on the fact that Michigan’s economic development agency has just had “the best six months ever in its history for creating jobs,” thanks in large part to green jobs initiatives, and energy efficiency and renewable energy commitments made under Granholm’s administration.

Building new coal plants are not the only way to create jobs in Michigan. The Governor’s commitment to renewable energy, including an upcoming pledge to allow residential and commercial property owners to sell renewably-generated electricity back to the grid, has already attracted investment from four wind turbine manufacturers and three solar panel manufacturers just since October 2008.

Governor Granholm’s support for energy innovation in Michigan will almost certainly have long term benefits. Unlike conventional coal-fired generation, the future of which is certainly uncertain, demand for these products both at home and abroad is not going anywhere.

Click here to read Governor Granholm’s executive directive.

[JR: Sean Pool is quickly becoming CP’s resident coal-obit writer (see “Another One Bites the Dust….“). Let’s hope it is a very busy job!]

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9 Responses to Planned coal plants dropping like flies

  1. Mark Shapiro says:

    Since we want to reduce coal use with minimum economic (and political) pain, it is especially important to block new coal plants. Otherwise people are building pre-stranded assets. It is politically the easiest way to curb demand for fossil fuels, before the plant and all its jobs come online.

    Remember though, coal miners are your friends. We only want to help them do better things.

  2. John Mashey says:

    Wind turbines especially: Michigan certainly ought to be able to do this. It has plenty of good mechanical engineers, manufacturing workers, people who know how to run supply chains, and reasonable shipping distances to customers.

    Given that that the oild auto business seems iunlikley to never return to what it was in Detroit, they need this badly.

  3. Col says:

    Great news. Apparently there’s lots of potential for more coal closing. If I skimmed and understood the study linked to below correctly, it seems that if all US states where as as electrically efficient as the top 10 states are, there would be a one third decrease in electricity use in the US. This could roughly translate to up to a 60% coal reduction.

  4. Kojiro Vance says:

    But Michigan has poor wind resources. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Michigan ranks 20th out of the 50 states in potential wind resources with a measely 65 B kWh potential, compared to North Dakota with 1,200. And a good percentage of that potential is class 3 wind resources.

    Building new, more efficient coal plants will allow Michigan to retire the less efficient plants in the future. Such short-sided policies may be contributing MORE greenhouse gasses not less.

  5. Jay Alt says:

    Don’t writers get credit and an easily found byline anymore?
    This has long been a confusing situation on this blog. It should not be overlooked.

  6. Andy says:

    I’ve not heard of a program like the one the Govenor mentioned. Is this something new? A government agency paying for renewable installation (or better weatherproofing) on a home and then getting paid back by having the homeowner pay a stable monthly bill despite using less energy with the savings going back to reimburse the government.

    Sounds brilliant. Right now I pay an unstable rate for 100% wind power in Texas. As the price of natural gas goes up, I pay more and the energy company sends higher profits (due to wind’s stable fuel costs) to shareholders. Great market capitalism but it doesn’t help me out very much and the potential growth of the renewable energy system is dampened.

    This program would make sure that all savings from renewable energy goes into building more renewable energy capacity. At no cost to homeownwers.

    The best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

  7. What the coal companies know that most people don’t:

    As long as you keep messing around with wind, solar, geothermal and wave power, the coal industry is safe. There is no way wind, solar, geothermal and wave power can replace coal, and they know it. Hydrogen fusion could, if it worked. Hydrogen fusion has been “hopeful” for half a century so far. I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

    [JR: Okay, Okay, you have posted this same post many, many times. We hear you. We don’t agree with you, but we hear you! I deleted the rest of your comment.]

  8. bill ricards says:

    If coal is so bad why don’t we shut down all the coal plants in the U.S.?start handing out candles[no power]…oh sorry,there bad for you ,made from oil. Maybe beeswax candles, not enough for every one… we can share. Also lets all quit driving,flying[ high cabon emission].Lets build nuclear[three mile????],same people screaming about coal,would be even louder about this.not even the amish,are free of all the above evils. If any of you are please list your names. by the way you will have to borrow someones computer to post it.

  9. Will some one explain to me where power will come from when there’s no or too much wind