Electrical utility plans need to have a full accounting for environmental costs, especially considering the challenges of CO2, climate change and the costs we will bear in the future for having changed so much of our environment.
Matanuska Electric Association is now going out to members to ask about siting for a coal fired power plant, justified by a new state prison to be built. This was recently reported in the Anchorage Daily News. There are a number of members who believe a coal plant has environmental concerns that have not been taken into account. The CH2M Hill Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) commissioned by MEA is not available to the members, so they have no way to review it. I’m happy that GVEA hasn’t been so secretive with their IRP and having it available to members for review can lead to a better report. Members don’t charge for their input.
In a recent study commissioned by the University of Alaska Fairbanks to look at meeting future power needs, they also came out with a recommendation to build (another) coal fired power plant on campus. Having access to the report helped point out that the economic analysis didn’t include any carbon cost analysis, no substantive consideration of alternatives and a near-total wash on further conservation/demand side reductions. You can download the Utility Development Plan at the bottom of the linked page in 3 different sections.
When GVEA performed an Integrated Resource Plan in order to justify the experimental coal plant in Healy in the 1990s, the study found that conservation would cost 1.5 – 2 cents/kwh vs. 3.5 -4.5 cents for a new plant. What the MEA IRP found is anyone’s guess. The irony of UAF’s plan to add a coal plant is that a coal plant is either on full time or it isn’t. There is no load balancing one can do without hours or days for starting a plant. If one builds a 20 mw plant, the most efficient use of that plant is to use 20 mw, not less. This is actually a disincentive for conservation.
I also notice that Governor Palin just awarded Usibelli Coal an award for exporting large quantities of coal to Korea. Rewarding a company for exporting a product that creates pollution that alters our environment? This is the same governor who just created a sub-cabinet level group to find ways that the state can reduce its “contribution” toward climate change.
With all the recent ramp up in discussion over climate change and the added CO2 that coal puts out, it seems like the discussion and research being performed demonstrating all the hazards aren’t being translated into action.