Coal Tattoo

This announcement just out from American Electric Power, in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules to reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants:

Based on the regulations as proposed, AEP’s compliance plan would retire nearly 6,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fueled power generation; upgrade or install new advanced emissions reduction equipment on another 10,100 MW; refuel 1,070 MW of coal generation as 932 MW of natural gas capacity; and build 1,220 MW of natural gas-fueled generation. The cost of AEP’s compliance plan could range from $6 billion to $8 billion in capital investment through the end of the decade.

Specifically, the AEP release says:

— AEP’s current plan for compliance with the rules as proposed includes permanently retiring the following coal-fueled power plants:

— Glen Lyn Plant, Glen Lyn, Va. – 335 MW (retired by Dec. 31, 2014);

— Kammer Plant, Moundsville, W.Va. – 630 MW (retired by Dec. 31, 2014) (pictured above)

— Kanawha River Plant, Glasgow, W.Va. – 400 MW (retired by Dec. 31, 2014);

— Phillip Sporn Plant, New Haven, W.Va. – 1,050 MW (450 MW expected to retire in 2011, 600 MW retired by Dec. 31, 2014); and

— Picway Plant, Lockbourne, Ohio – 100 MW (retired by Dec. 31, 2014).

Now, much of this isn’t really news … AEP had previously announced plans to retire about 5,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation over the next five years (see here and here).

AEP added today, though, that:

Although some jobs would be created from the installation of emissions reduction equipment, AEP expects a net loss of approximately 600 power plant jobs with annual wages totaling approximately $40 million as a result of compliance with the proposed EPA rules.

But here’s what is really interesting … AEP Chairman Michael Morris in the company’s press release criticizes the EPA plans and the resulting changes to his company’s power mix:

We support regulations that achieve long-term environmental benefits while protecting customers, the economy and the reliability of the electric grid, but the cumulative impacts of the EPA’s current regulatory path have been vastly underestimated, particularly in Midwest states dependent on coal to fuel their economies. We have worked for months to develop a compliance plan that will mitigate the impact of these rules for our customers and preserve jobs, but because of the unrealistic compliance timelines in the EPA proposals, we will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit and replace coal-fueled power plants. The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling.

But, check out AEP’s 2011 Corporate Accountability Report, where the company brags about how it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:

AEP expects to reduce GHG emissions by an additional 10 percent by 2020 from 2010 levels. In 2010, AEP emitted 134 million metric tons of GHGs from its plants. This will result in a total reduction of approximately 25 percent from 2003 levels, the first year of our CCX commitment.

We will, however, achieve additional GHG reductions as we retire older, less efficient coal units and replace them with new natural gas and/or renewable generation, where supported. Under the EPA’s proposed Transport, Coal Combustion Residuals and Hazardous Air Pollutant rules, AEP may be forced to retire a significant amount of older coal-fired generation in the next several years. The industry as a whole may retire between 50 gigawatts and 100 gigawatts. Some of that generation most likely will be replaced with natural gas plants, which emit about half the carbon dioxide of coal combustion plants.

Oddly enough, today’s news release contained no mention of climate change, or the potential greenhouse gas emissions that might be reduced by these coal plant retirements.

And remember, as we’ve written on this blog before:

EPA believes its proposal will provide $59 billion a year in benefits and save 17,000 lives, while costing just $10.9 billion a year — and creating 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.

It’s also interesting to contrast the tone of the AEP news release to that of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s announcement in April about its plans to retire 2,700 megawatts of coal-fired units:

The Tennessee Valley Authority announced plans Thursday to retire 18 older coal-fired generation units at three power plants as part of the federal utility’s vision of being one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020.

President and CEO Tom Kilgore told the TVA board of directors, meeting in Chattanooga, that replacing older and less-economical generation with cleaner sources also is in alignment with recommendations in the utility’s Integrated Resource Plan as well as the utility’s vision for cleaner air.