Global Warming

$105 million settlement includes renewable energy commitments

Posted on August 7, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Energy Policy, Generation Plants, Global Warming, Solar, Wind |

From a story posted on the Web site of The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

The three owners of the Elm Road Generating Station in Oak Creek will pay $105 million over a 25-year period for Lake Michigan protection projects to end a three- year legal battle over the water intake structure at the power plant, Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club said Wednesday.

Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club filed suit after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a permit allowing the use of a once-through cooling system at the coal-fired power plant. The organizations claimed that once-through cooling did not represent the best available technology for cooling the plant and thus should not be permitted.

Under the settlement, the three utilities that own the generating station — We Energies of Milwaukee, Madison Gas & Electric of Madison and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. of Sun Prairie — agreed to the following:

– Funding $4 million per year from 2010 through 2035 for projects to address water quality issues in Lake Michigan such as invasive species, polluted runoff, toxic loadings, and habitat destruction;

– Purchase or construct 15 megawatts of solar generation by Jan. 1, 2015; and

– Support legislative efforts to establish a renewable energy portfolio standard of 10 percent by 2013 and 25 percent by 2025.

We Energies will also retire two coal-fired units in Presque Isle, Michigan and ask the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for approval to construct 50 megawatts of 100 percent biomass-fueled power in Wisconsin.

In a media release, Mark Redsten, Exeuctive Director, of Clean Wisconsin said:

“We’re happy to have reached an agreement that has significant benefits for both the lake and the fight against global warming. These environmental protections help ensure Lake Michigan is a healthy natural resource for generations to come.”

From a separate release from the Sierra Club:

“In the long run, this agreement will result in dramatic improvements to the overall health of Lake Michigan and will contribute to the development of renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass,” said Jennifer Feyerherm, Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign Director.

“It will help us address two of the most critical issues of our time—climate change and protection of one of the world’s greatest freshwater natural resources.”

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Alliant picks biomass suppliers for Cassville plant

Posted on July 31, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Generation Plants, Global Warming | Tags: |

From an article by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Wisconsin Power & Light Co. is lining up candidates to deliver biomass fuel to a plant expansion it doesn’t yet have approval to build.

The company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corp., announced it selected five Wisconsin companies as candidates for a supply chain for the expansion of the Nelson Dewey Generating Facility in Cassville.

Alliant spokesman Rob Crain said the field of five candidates includes Premier Cooperative, Mt. Horeb; Midwest Forest Products/InDeck Energy Services Inc., Hayward; Bioenergy Products LLC, Lancaster; Futurewood, Hayward; and Marathon-based Marth Wood Shaving Supply Inc. He said the field will be narrowed to one or two companies later this year.

But that’s only if the project gets approval from the state, said Mark Redsten, executive director of Clean Wisconsin Inc., a nonprofit environmental group opposing the expansion.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is reviewing the expansion proposal and must issue its decision by Dec. 15.

Although Alliant promised 20 percent of the plant’s generation will come from renewable sources, the fact the plant would be predominantly coal-fired garnered continuing opposition from groups such as Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club.

Most of Alliant’s recent press releases about the project, which is estimated between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion, highlight the company’s commitment to renewable energy.

Redsten said he’s still not buying it.

“We’ve been hitting them hard,” he said. “I wonder if this announcement (about biomass suppliers) is just an attempt to make the project seem more palatable.”

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Pro and con of coal-fired Cassville plant

Posted on July 15, 2008. Filed under: Generation Plants, Global Warming | Tags: |

From two guest editorials in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Pro power plant: Step toward greener future
By Louis Okey, Cassville village president

Building the proverbial bridge to a greener future is a challenge we all embrace. It will be costly and require innovation, but it will be a small price to pay for protecting the environment.

Alliant Energy ‘s proposed 300-megawatt flexible fuels plant in Cassville is a prime example of how we can make the transition from traditional sources of electrical power to the power of the future.

The prospect of a new “green ” economy in Wisconsin is exciting.

The plant, as proposed, will burn up to 20 percent renewable fuels like switch grass, waste wood and corn stalks along with coal.

Though 20 percent may sound like a modest start toward reducing greenhouse gasses, understand that it will require tens of thousands of new acres under till, create hundreds of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic development. . . .

Con power plant: It’s no answer to state’s electricity needs
By Charlie Higley, executive director, Citizens Utility Board

Alliant Energy ‘s proposal to build a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Cassville would be a bad deal for consumers and the environment.

The Citizens Utility Board is opposing the issuance of a construction permit for the plant by the Public Service Commission, which will make a decision by December whether to approve the plant.

Electricity rates for Wisconsin residential customers have risen more than 60 percent between 1997 and 2008. During the same time, inflation was 30 percent.

Given that incomes for Wisconsin families have barely kept pace with inflation, electricity now consumes a much larger portion of a household ‘s monthly budget, as do other fossil fuels such as natural gas and gasoline.

Rising electricity rates have been caused by excessive utility profits, construction costs for new power plants, and rising prices for fossil fuels. Alliant ‘s power plant proposal would cause rates to increase even more.

First, construction costs for new plants have risen dramatically, due to higher prices for steel, concrete, copper, and other materials.

Alliant recently increased the price tag for the proposed plant to $1.2 billion from $780 million, an increase of more than 50 percent. These higher costs will be added to electric bills if the plant is approved.

Second, coal prices for Wisconsin utilities have increased nearly 50 percent since 1999. . . .

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RENEW Wisconsin Comments on Comprehensive Strawman Proposal for Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force

Posted on June 18, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy, Global Warming |

From a statement on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin submitted by Michael Vickerman to the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force:

These comments, submitted on behalf of RENEW Wisconsin, address the strawman proposal developed by the co-chairs of Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force. I represented RENEW in the Electric Generation and Supply Workgroup and took part in the drafting and preparing of several specific proposals that were submitted to the full Task Force. Among them were proposals to establish (1) uniform permitting standards for wind projects, (2) fixed-rate production-cost-based tariffs to stimulate customer-sited renewable energy systems; and (3) post-2015 renewable energy requirements on utilities. The comments address various proposed changes to the existing renewable energy standard (RES). . . .

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Groups pan Alliant coal-plant plan

Posted on June 13, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Carbon, Coal, Generation Plants, Global Warming | Tags: |

From a news release from the Sierra Club:

Madison – When Alliant Energy announced plans to shut down a small coal plant in a vain attempt to deal with the huge amounts of pollution that may be spewed from its proposed new coal plant in Cassville, Mark Kresowik, the corporate accountability representative for the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, felt a sense of déjà vu.

“This is exactly the same thing they tried to pull in Iowa, distract ratepayers and regulators from the plain fact that their new coal plant is dirty, unnecessary, and will send costs sky high right along with the increased pollution from their plants,” said Kresowik, who moved to Madison from Iowa just a few months ago. “Wisconsin’s economy can’t deal with the investment risks and higher energy costs of new coal plants right now, look at what happened to the assembly plant in Janesville as oil prices have increased. We need lower-cost energy efficiency, clean energy, and green-collar jobs in the 21st century, not expensive and dirty coal.”

Alliant’s claimed global warming pollution reductions pale in comparison to their proposed coal-fired power plant’s estimated 2.9 million tons of global warming pollution each year.

“Investments in wind and energy efficiency are always good,” notes Jennifer Feyerherm, Director of Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign. “Unfortunately, when they are made in conjunction with a proposal for a new coal plant, it smacks of green-washing.”

And a news release from Clean Wisconsin:

Madison, Wis. – Today’s latest proposal in Alliant Energy’s push to construct a coal plant in Cassville, Wisconsin, would still result in one of the state’s dirtiest power facilities, according to the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization.

“Alliant continues to repackage their proposal in an attempt to sell this dirty coal plant as an environmentally friendly option,” said Katie Nekola, Energy Program Director at Clean Wisconsin. “Replacing a nearly retired coal plant that emitted less than 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2006 with one that would emit more than 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gas annually for at least 50 years is not a solution to global warming.”

The company announced changes in a new proposal today, including the retirement of one small coal plant, the addition of more wind to its energy portfolio and the ability to burn up to 20 percent biomass in the plant.

Even at 20 percent biomass, the Cassville plant would emit more greenhouse gas emissions than other, more efficient, power plants fueled exclusively by coal in Wisconsin. The Public Service Commission, however, has questioned many details of Alliant’s previous commitment to burn even 10 percent biomass in the recent environmental impact statement.

The announcement comes one month after the Public Service Commission released a draft environmental impact statement claiming Alliant’s proposal was “not the optimal generation choice,” and “not the least cost option under any scenario.”

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Alliant to retire aging coal plant, build more wind, double biomass commitment, and increase energy efficiency, to reduce carbon ‘footprint’

Posted on June 12, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Carbon, Coal, Energy Efficiency, Generation Plants, Global Warming, Wind | Tags: |

From a media release issued by Wisconsin Power and Light, parent company of Alliant:

MADISON, Wis., June 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL), a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation (NYSE: LNT – News), proposed today to reduce its generation fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by retiring a coal-fired generating unit, dramatically increasing its wind power portfolio, doubling its commitment to utilizing biomass, and aggressively building upon its energy efficiency measures, when its proposed expansion at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station becomes operable in 2013. . . .

As part of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction proposal, WPL would retire Edgewater Generating Station’s coal-fired unit 3. The facility is the oldest coal plant in WPL’s generation fleet. The company would also increase its commitment to develop new wind power resources. Previously the company had announced plans for approximately 300 megawatts of new wind by the end of 2010. Upon approval of the Nelson Dewey expansion, the company would add 200 megawatts to that total by the time the new facility begins commercial operation. While the sites for the future wind farms have not yet been determined, it is possible that one of the sites could be located in southwestern Wisconsin.

WPL would also double the amount of renewable resource fuels to be used at the new third unit of Nelson Dewey, to twenty percent. As a result of utilizing fuels such as switch grass, waste wood, or corn stalks, not only are CO2 emissions reduced by offsetting the use of coal at the facility, but Wisconsin farmers and foresters will have access to new economic markets, an ecologically friendly crop and better land and forest management practices. Analysis by researchers from the University of Wisconsin has shown that the 20 percent biomass at Nelson Dewey unit 3 could create economic development revenues for the State of Wisconsin to exceed an estimated $50 million annually.

This proposal, along with a fifty percent increase in WPL energy efficiency savings, is projected to more than offset the carbon emissions from the new Nelson Dewey unit. The potential increased capital costs associated with these changes in WPL’s generation fleet are expected to be $500-$550 million, and are contingent upon the company receiving all applicable regulatory approvals related to the expansion of the Nelson Dewey Generating Station.

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Kansas governor rejects two coal-fired power plants

Posted on March 23, 2008. Filed under: Coal, Global Warming |

From an article posted on the Environmental News Service:

TOPEKA, Kansas, March 21, 2008 (ENS) – Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius today vetoed legislation that would have overturned a decision of her administration to deny an permit application to build two new coal-fired power plants because of the greenhouse gases they would have produced. The measure passed without a veto-proof majority of state legislators.

Last October Secretary of Kansas Department of Health and Environment Rob Bremby denied a permit to regional wholesale power supplier Sunflower Electric Power Corporation to build two new power plants at its Holcomb Station in western Kansas.

The bill Sebelius vetoed today would have permitted the power plants and stripped the state agency of the power to deny such permits in the future if they held utilities to standards stricter than those in the federal Clean Air Act.

“We know that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change,” Sebelius said. “As an agricultural state, Kansas is particularly vulnerable. Therefore, reducing pollutants benefits our state not only in the short term – but also for generations of Kansans to come.”

“Of all the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me as governor, none is greater than my obligation to protect the health and well-being of the people of Kansas,” Sebelius said. “And that is why I supported the decision of the Secretary of Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding Kansas’ energy future. For that reason, I must veto House Substitute for SB 327.”

“Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives,” the governor said.

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Policy Options to Reduce Wisconsin’s Contribution to Global Warming

Posted on January 24, 2008. Filed under: Global Warming |

From a report by Wisconsin Environment: 

Wisconsin could reduce its contribution to global warming much further by adopting 13 key policy strategies. There are numerous tools available to Wisconsin to reduce global warming pollution. The following policies can help the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy use.

1. Adopt the Clean Cars Program. The Clean Cars Program will impose limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions and offer Wisconsinites a greater selection of hybrid-electric vehicles.

2. Require energy-saving replacement tires. By requiring the sale of energy-saving replacement tires, Wisconsin can improve vehicle efficiency without negatively affecting safety.

3. Create mileage-based automobile insurance. Automobile insurers should be required to offer insurance with rates based on the amount traveled. This will reward those who drive less and potentially reduce accidents.

4. Reduce the number of automobile commutes. Large employers should be required to develop programs to discourage single-passenger commuting and provide employees with more transportation choices to cut single-occupant vehicle commutes by 40 percent by 2020.

5. Reduce the growth in vehicle miles traveled. Wisconsin should invest in transit and reduce sprawling development to stop the per capita growth in vehicle miles traveled by cars and light trucks on Wisconsin’s highways.

6. Adopt a low-carbon fuel standard. A portion of motor fuel sold in Wisconsin should come from sources with lower life-cycle emissions than gasoline or diesel to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel mix by 10 percent by 2020.

7. Strengthen building energy codes. Stronger energy codes for residential and commercial buildings would reduce energy use and thus global warming pollution.

8. Adopt appliance efficiency standards. Wisconsin should adopt energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment.

9. Increase investments in energy efficiency. Investing more in energy efficiency would reduce electricity use by 0.7 percent and natural gas use by 0.4 percent annually.

10. Encourage combined heat and power. Wisconsin has the potential for 1,100 MW more of combined heat and power technology, which allows commercial and industrial facilities to use the same energy to generate both electricity and useful heat.

11. Strengthen the renewable electricity standard. Wisconsin should increase its existing renewable electricity standard to require that 20 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

12. Prevent expansion of coal-fired power plants. Wisconsin can avoid major projected increases in emissions by preventing the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

13. Reduce government energy use. Wisconsin should increase the energy efficiency of state government buildings, get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and reduce emissions from vehicles by 30 percent.

Adoption of these strategies would reduce global warming pollution while improving Wisconsin’s energy efficiency. By 2020, Wisconsin’s emissions of carbon dioxide would be approximately 30 percent below projected 2020 levels and 23 percent below 2006 levels.

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Suggested comments on Global Warming Task Force proposals

Posted on December 7, 2007. Filed under: Carbon, Energy Policy, Global Warming, Nuclear, Solar, Vehicles, Wind |

Ryan Schryver from Clean Wisconsin drafted suggestions for comments on the proposals made by the workgroups of the Govenor’s Global Warming Task Force. Comments can be made online at through December 14.

Work group: Electric Generation and Supply Policies

Enhanced Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard
This draft policy calls for between 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2025 renewable electricity. The electricity would come from imported renewable electricity as well as Wisconsin-produced electricity.

• Comments should focus on supporting renewable electricity goals of 20% by 2020 and 25% by 2025, which would agree with the goals in the “Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest” (“Midwest Energy Platform”), signed by Gov. Doyle and other Midwest Governors on Nov. 15.

• The renewable electricity goals should be achieved without reliance on hydro electricity from dams larger than 60 megawatts, which would exclude large Canadian hydro power.

Incentives for Combined Heat & Power
This draft policy encourages replacement of old, non-utility steam boilers with combined heat & power systems.

• Comments should encourage the strengthening of this policy to include replacement or repowering of utility power plants into combined heat and power plants. This option was deemed infeasible by the utilities, although it has been suggested for study in the “Policy Forum” policy proposal.

Relax Restrictions on Construction of New Nuclear Power Plants
This draft policy would repeal §196.493, Wis. Stats., the so-called “nuclear moratorium law,” which states that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) may not authorize the construction of a nuclear plant unless it finds that a facility will be available for the disposal of high-level waste from all Wisconsin nuclear plants, and that the proposed plant is economically advantageous to ratepayers based on specified factors.

This law should not be repealed. Comments on this policy could include the following concerns:

Cost: A new nuclear plant would be extremely expensive. Standard & Poor’s recently estimated the cost of a new nuclear plant at $4000 per kW; and Moody’s recently suggested $6,000 per kW. Nuclear plants currently being built in other countries continue to experience massive cost overruns and delays in completing the projects.

Safety: New nuclear plants would increase the risk of a serious reactor accident, which could threaten thousands of people and cost billions to deal with.

Nuclear Waste: For the foreseeable future, there remains no safe means of disposal for nuclear waste. Building additional nuclear plants in Wisconsin would only add to the problem in which thousands of tons of waste are sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan and along the Mississippi River.

Wisconsin as a Nuclear Waste Dump: The failure of the federal government to open Yucca Mt. in a timely fashion, if ever, increases pressure to find an alternate site for disposal of nuclear waste. The Wolf River area was studied in the past, and could be studied in the future as a disposal site for the nation’s nuclear waste.

Nuclear Does Not Help with Global Warming Pollution: While the operation of a nuclear plant may not directly produce GHG emissions, GHG emissions are released at various points throughout a plant’s lifecycle (construction, uranium mining and enrichment, spent fuel disposal, decommissioning, etc). According to MIT researchers, it could take nearly 1,000 additional nuclear plants to make a significant contribution toward reducing global warming pollution, whereas other strategies such as energy efficiency and renewable energy would be much less costly.


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Challenges of carbon sequestration

Posted on December 3, 2007. Filed under: Carbon, Coal, Global Warming |

The listserve focus_solar has an interesting dialog on carbon sequestration. It began with this letter to the editor by Joel H. Goodman, M. Architecture diploma, MIT; former assistant professor of architecture at the U. of Minnesota:

Coal trains to Wisconsin, to burn coal in Wisconsin, and then capture the CO2 carbon dioxide pollution at the coal plants, and build CO2 pipelines out of Wisconsin, to pump the CO2 back to the coal mine areas to be injected into permanent geologic storage-sequestration. The politicians recently signed “…we must begin to take action now…” in the Nov. 15, 2007 “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord”, organized by the Midwest Governors Association; and it appears to depend on coal fired carbon capture and construction of new CO2 pipelines to out of state geologic storage.

If large scale geologic carbon sequestration works, the hope is that it can be applied to the many coal plants being constructed and planned, in the USA, India, China, and globally, for example, the two 615 MW Oak Creek coal units now being constructed south of Milwaukee.

However, these are recent published technical expert comments: “Large-scale commercial carbon capture and sequestration have yet to be successfully demonstrated”; and “There’s no easy technological fix to deal with carbon capture and sequestration”.

Niels Wolter commented with this quote from a paper titled The War on Coal: Think Outside the (Coal) Pits:

“In other words, sequestering just 10% of the world’s fossil-fuel combustion CO2 would require an industry whose throughput would have to 1.3 times what the oil industry, with its vast distribution network and immense network of wells, storage tankers, and storage locations. Moreover, both the sheer scale and cost (trillions of dollars?) of the project remain unknown, as are the safety and operating reliability conditions (see the details below of safety risks associated with sequestration). Despite all this, this project would reduce emissions by only 10%! There’s no reasonable perspective by which sequestration can make enough of a dent in coal’s carbon emissions without significant improvements in technology.”

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