Aug. 13, 2008
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Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Officials urge utility to back off Ely plant
By JOHN G. EDWARDS
State officials are recommending that Nevada Power Co. back off development of a giant coal-fired power plant at Ely and consider building a smaller coal-fired power plant in Northern Nevada.
Analysts with an environmental group, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission and the attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection on Tuesday filed written testimony on planned amendments to Nevada Power's integrated resource plan. The written testimony follows delays in regulatory review of the
1,500-megawatt Ely Energy Center, projections that the cost of the project had increased to $5 billion from $3.8 billion two years ago and talk of federal carbon dioxide regulations that may make coal-fired plants more expensive.
Jon Davis, an electrical engineer with the commission staff, suggested that the Las Vegas utility and its affiliate, Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno, build another unit at the Valmy Power Station, located in Northern Nevada between Battle Mountain and Winnemucca. Davis left open the possibility of building the Ely center later.
Davis also advocates a smaller plant because it is difficult to predict power demand growth during economic downturns
Charles Benjamin, president of Nevadans for Clean Affordable Reliable Energy, rejected the idea of building a smaller coal-fired plant.
"It still doesn't belie the fact that the cost of building a coal plant
has gone up 40 percent (in the last few years)," Benjamin said.
Coal plants also may be more costly because of expected regulation on carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to contribute to global warming.
"All this uncertainty weighs against coal plants regardless of how big they are," Benjamin said. To deliver Valmy power to Las Vegas, Davis recommended the company build a transmission line linking Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power for the first time. Under Davis' proposal, Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific would be authorized to spend $13 million reviewing the prospect of other coal-fired power plant projects, including a possible 500- to 700-megawatt plant at the existing Valmy generation site.
Davis argued that coal prices are not as volatile as those for natural gas. The engineer said that solar and wind power are not steady enough to replace coal- or natural gas-fired plants. Yet, Davis said that geothermal power, which is abundant in Northern Nevada, could be available before the Ely plant is built in 2016.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection recommended that the commission cap Nevada Power's spending on the Ely coal plant at $106 million temporarily, rather than the $155 million the utility is asking to spend.
Bureau chief Eric Witkoski said the commission should require Nevada Power to prepare a new resource plan and submit it next year, rather than attempt to deal with issues in an amendment now.
"The costs have increased dramatically (for the Ely project), and it could increase even more substantially if carbon becomes an issue," Witkoski said.
"There may be other (energy) alternatives out there that are more viable," given changes since the Ely project was approved a couple of years ago, he said. Benjamin agreed.
The utilities commission, Benjamin said, should require the staff to prepare realistic estimates of the cost of various types of conventional and renewable energy, including the potential cost of federal regulations on carbon dioxide.
Nevada Power spokesman Adam Grant declined immediate comment, saying the company would address the issues in written testimony later.
Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
85 Second Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
A NOTE FROM CONSERVATION Co-CHAIR JANE FELDMAN:
April 3, 2008
You are a part of our success story.
Thank you for the post cards, phone calls and letters to the editors.
You are making a difference felt across the nation. (Wait until their shareholders meeting in May!!!)
This went out yesterday in response to comments Bruce Williamson from Dynegy made in an interview with Bloomberg.
Associate Press Secretary
tel: 804-225-9113 x 102
Dynegy Shows Signs of Hesitation in Plans to Build Coal Plants
Environmentalists Gain Critical Momentum
The campaign spearheaded by Sierra Club pressuring Houston-based Dynegy, Inc. to move away from its proposed coal-fired power plants picks up momentum today with some candid words spoken by Dynegy CEO Bruce Williamson. In an interview with Bloomberg, Williamson states that “environmental opposition is making it more time-consuming to build coal-fueled plants…that's making it tougher to align the elements of a project that have to come together at the same time: prices, financing, approvals and construction costs, which are escalating.”
Williamson continues on to state: “I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a lull in new plant development.''
These words show a clear success on the part of the Sierra Club and others, which just launched the campaign to stop Dynegy’s proposed plants less than two months ago. The campaign has been focused in the states where Dynegy is in the process of permitting or building new coal-fired power plants: Texas, Iowa, Nevada, Georgia, Arkansas, and Michigan. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups around the country are urging Dynegy to invest in clean energy like wind and solar power instead of highly-polluting coal.
Williamson’s words build strong momentum for the Sierra Club campaign.
“Dynegy clearly is beginning to understand that the issue of global warming can no longer be ignored,” stated Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. “Consumers, investors and shareholders are demanding cleaner energy.”
Another sign of progress came last month, when Dynegy shareholders filed a successful resolution obliging the company to disclose all global warming emissions by the end of 2008 along with a plan for future emissions reductions.
“Building these coal plants would lock us into 50 more years of backwards, polluting technology,” said Nilles. “Dynegy has a real opportunity to grab hold of the clean energy niche and make a name for itself that will benefit its reputation and bottomline, rather than one that will only hurt its position with consumers and in the energy marketplace.”