Use Lowest Emitting Powerplants First

by Ginosar  

Investor owns corporations have the responsibility to maximize profit. The same goes for investor-owned electrical utilities. But the need of the nation and the world can be in direct conflict with this established profit goal, especially when dealing with the time-urgent global warming problem.


Power companies operate their plants to maximize profits, not to reduce emission of GHG even when it is very easy to do at minimal increase in cost. Utilities with coal plants may also have natural gas plants that emit considerably lower CO2 than their coal plants. Also, each coal plant has different level of air pollution and CO2 emission. But utilities operate the least fuel cost plants first, usually dirty coal plants. Natural gas fuel cost marginally more, 3c per kWh, than coal generated electricity. In addition, coal plants with higher air pollutions (older plants) may have higher electrical efficiency (more profit) since they do not use as much energy to operate their air filtering equipment. Any ways you look at it the legitimate motive of higher profit could easily conflict with society's need to reduce air pollution and lower CO2 emission.

Note that natural gas is already more readily available, at lower cost, and expected to be more so in the future with increase conservation and new gas sources.


Because of the urgency of GW  I suggest that the EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency, should make a quick administrative rule to direct all power utilities, including Municipal utilities to prioritize their electricity generation according to the lowest polluters first, and higher polluters last.

I do hope, however, that this potential ruling is already in the pipeline at EPA and will be in effect soon.


The increase cost should pass to the customers, and may be even be compensated for by the federal government.

This federal support would be considerably more beneficial to the nation and the world in reducing CO2 than supporting marginal alternative energy programs.


For example, ball park estimate only:

As I mentioned, using existing natural gas plants can reduce CO2 by at least a half compare to coal at a cost of 3c a kWh. In comparison, the total cost of electricity generated by photovoltaic, solar, system is in the range of 75c per kWh, without rebates. Therefore, we, as a society, can reduce twenty five times the amount of CO2 by switching to natural gas plants than using PV roof solar.

CCS, carbon capture and storage, is estimated to cost a minimum of an ADDITIONAL 5c per kWh, and possibly about 10c per kWh.


Some may say: use all possible technologies, cost is not important, but this is a dream. Cost is an important consideration since we do not have the financial resources we need to fight global warming effectively and reduce GW unavoidable impacts.





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