Congressman Markey’s remarks on climate change and Superstorm Sandy, 11/25/2012

Thanks for doing this, John! - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

My daughter and I attended Congressman Markey’s hearing yesterday, and I videotaped his opening remarks.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

For me, the most exciting proposal was the elimination of coal fired electrcity in the commonwealth.  Historically, the energy mix here didn’t have a lot coal in the first place and that number has been steadily decreasing over the years, but to phase it our entirely is a giant step in the right direction.

I never got to ask my question, so I’ll pose it here – Congressman Markey, if you’re following up, please answer:  can we require all governmental entities to purchase green power where green power is available?  This would create an instant jump in green power demand, essentially greening the grid through the power of the marketplace.  BMGers, have at it in the comments!



3 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. A few bits and bobs

    1a. Can you point to where Congressman Markey makes remarks about no coal-fired generation in MA? I don’t have time to watch the whole thing.

    1b. As far as retiring coal in Massachusetts goes, we’re almost there.
    * Somerset, 174 MW, retired 2010 and to be dismantled.
    * Salem Harbor, 320 MW, to be retired June 2014 and rebuilt as a natural gas fired electrical plant
    * Mount Tom, 136 MW, future uncertain. It’s currently being used to provide peak power because it costs more to run than natural gas plants. My analysis is that it will retire by Jan 1 2016 because the cost to put environmental retrofits won’t be worth the revenue, given how little the plant is used now. It might be rebuilt to be a natural gas plant; I don’t know what their access to non-firm gas looks like at the site.
    * Brayton Point, 1,125 MW. This is the big one; it dwarfs the others. Thing is, it’s cost to operate is quite high relative to natural gas, and as a result has been operating at a capacity factor under 15%, in the single digits even. It’s also for sale by its owner, who will take a writedown [read: lose their shirts] on the deal. Will it retire by 2016 on its own? I really don’t know. ISONE may give it “must run” status to keep it on for reliability, and that comes with the necessary financial incentives to keep it profitable for its owners. If reliability is an issue, then closing it will require some combination of (a) energy efficiency to reduce demand on peak hours in New England, (b) lots of new renewable electricity generation in New England which generates on-peak [solar PV, off-shore wind to a lesser extent, on-shore wind to an even lesser extent, and co-gen on a case-by-case basis], (c) new fossil fueled plants like one or two combined cycle natural gas plants, and/or (d) new transmission to get all that hydro power from Hydro Quebec into New England.

    1c. Neither Vermont nor Rhode Island have any coal-fired power plants. New Hampshire has two (Schiller, Merrimack), Maine has one 103MW co-gen industrial boiler (Rumford), and Connecticut has one (AES Thames was retired in 2011; PSEG’s Bridgeport Harbor Station got a 5-year permit in Nov 2012 and isn’t expected to come back for another one in 2017). Heck, even New York is retiring coal fired power plants at a rapid rate.

    Here’s the thing though. As of 2011, the US had ~306 GW of coal-fired power plant capacity, and only 6 GW of that is located in the New England+New York region. Even if we shut down all of our coal plants [and we could!], that would reduce the USA’s coal fired power plant capacity by 2%.

    2. We can require state, regional, county, and local municipalities to purchase green power, and there is enough available to power 100%. However, it might not be the most effective public policy move, because it adds costs to providing services in the public sector that the private sector doesn’t face. It means the MBTA has higher bills, the school budgets have higher bills, police departments have higher bills, etc.

    A different (and in my view, better) way to go would be to add a small kWh charge on utility bills*, and then take this money and use it to help state and sub-state governments install renewables or implement energy efficiency measures. Lots of ‘em. PV on every viable roof, wind turbines where they are appropriate, tighten up every building. The works.

    The net result would be the similar, but your proposal requires the same financial resources to provide more results, whereas the proposal I suggest generates a new revenue stream to actually lower the energy bills of the government agencies, thereby allowing them to shift their savings into the works that they do, be it moving people, educating people, policing, etc.

    * This can be done in a way which isn’t regressive, by applying it on residential bills [non-elec heating] which exceed a specific level of usage. Ratemaking is tricky business, and determining what is “fair” is a delicate dance between legislators, regulators, utilities, and advocates.

    • I just went back through the videos

      and I didn’t see him discussing the coal reduction plan in them, it may have been covered in a different part of the presentation. Thanks for your comment – it was longer than my post!

  2. Small error

    In 2011 the US had 316 GW of coal-fired capacity, not 306 GW as I wrote above.

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Fri 28 Apr 2:33 AM