March 31, 2009
Government Report, New Wave of Coal Plants Not Needed
Washington, DC: The government found no need for scores of new coal plants currently on the drawing board, according to the Annual Energy Outlook report issued by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) today. The outlook found need for just two new coal plants between 2013 and 2025—and that is without accounting for expected new investments in efficiency and renewables, which should eliminate the need for new coal plants. The government’s findings are a far cry from the coal industry’s propaganda that dozens of new plants are absolutely essential.
"The data clearly show that we don’t need to be investing billions in dirty new coal plants," said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. "In fact the data indicates that if we invest in clean energy, we can begin the process of retiring the oldest and dirtiest coal plants that are the most harmful to our health."
The Annual Energy Outlook’s reference case only accounts for current conditions, not pending policy changes. Among those changes excluded from the report are environmental regulations like the Clean Air Mercury Rule and the Clean Air Interstate Rule, as well as upcoming carbon regulations or increased emphasis on renewable energies. Past results have shown that the EIA data tend to undervalue efficiency and renewable energy potential. Yet, despite these tendencies the number of estimated new coal plants built in the reference case has been revised downward by more than half in just the past year.
"Even by these very conservative estimates, it’s clear that there is no truth behind the coal industry’s claims that we must have new coal to have a secure energy future," said Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign. "This is more evidence for investors that the future for coal is weak, especially when compared with the growth outlook for renewable energies like wind and solar."
Twenty-four coal plants were defeated or abandoned last year, making a total of 95 defeated or abandoned plants since the beginning of the coal rush. At the same time, in 2008 the wind industry added more than 8,000 megawatts of new capacity, its best year ever, while the use of existing coal-fired generation fell by 3.0%. With clear signals coming from the Obama administration that coal plants will soon have to account for their global warming pollution, coal is becoming an increasingly risky energy option. Even without the future cost of carbon dioxide pollution, the data in the EIA report show that in both 2020 and 2030 cleaner energies like wind will cost the same as coal.
"As this report shows, it’s time to start shifting our investments away from polluting coal power and toward clean energy technologies that can help boost the economy, create jobs and help the climate recover," continued Nilles.