August 2013

Dustin TrippPossible EPA Changes for Coal

Southern Illinois is rich in coal deposits, and coal-fired generation plants are the primary source of electric generation in the Midwest.  In fact coal-fired generation provided approximately 37% of the nation’s electricity in 2012 making coal the most common source of fuel for electricity generation in the United States.  To put this into perspective, all of the wind and solar renewable energy generation that you may have seen scattered across the United States provided only 5.4% of the nation’s electricity in 2012.

In a speech on June 25, 2012, President Obama announced a broad new federal mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants.  The President will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon emissions standards for both new and existing power plants.

One may wonder why this announcement is so critical to all energy consumers, the electric utility industry, the coal mining industry and all other related industries across the United States.  The answer is that there is no proven, commercially available technology that utilities can purchase and install on coal-fired generation plants that captures the carbon emissions.  In addition, all of the research and design efforts have revealed that the equipment required to capture the carbon and sequester it would be large, complex and very expensive.   In fact the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has predicted that the technology required to perform this function would increase the cost of building a coal-fired plant by approximately 76% which doesn’t even take into consideration the additional costs of operating the plant.

If the President’s plan is implemented in the United States in the next few years thru increased regulations, it could prove very detrimental to our region.  First, your Cooperative’s wholesale power supplier, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC), has made significant investments in coal-fired generation and in emission control equipment to utilize Southern Illinois coal in an environmentally responsible way.  According to all of the research surrounding carbon capture and sequestration technologies, new regulations will likely require significant investments to continue using coal to generate electricity and increase the cost to all members.  Secondly, the coal industry is a significant part of our economy in Southern Illinois and the proposal for new regulations could cause significant harm to this industry and the thousands of jobs it creates in Southern Illinois.

As a not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperative, we are concerned that new regulations will likely make electric power more expensive for you and all Americans.  Over the past several years, Electric Cooperatives have been urging Congress and the EPA to pursue fair, affordable and achievable solutions.  Your Cooperative remains committed to working with our nation’s leaders to ensure affordable electric rates are a high priority as our nation’s energy policy is discussed.

See you next month and as always, "We'll keep the lights on for you."