Coal Death Watch: Swapping Out Coal for Renewables

We’re usually content to just see plans for traditional coal-fired power plants get the kibosh when authorities refuse to grant the dirty plants permits or funding. But this week’s there’s been some progress towards axing existing coal plants. Utility Georgia Power is seeking approval from regulators to convert an aging coal-fired unit in Albany, Georgia to burn renewable biomass from the local forestry industry. It’s not a done deal yet, but we’ve added the Mitchell Plant to our Coal Death Watch Map and marked it with a new green pin designating a swap for renewable energy.

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Georgia Power says the old Mitchell Plant was too expensive to continue operating; by switching to biomass the utility says the plant will be cheaper to run and reduce emissions. Utilities are also worried that a carbon-constrained future will make coal more expensive, and with a national renewable portfolio standard likely to be passed by the next federal administration, utilities are scrambling to secure green energy sources.

Georgia Power’s news also follows an announcement from Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy earlier this week, which said it would be shutting down two coal-fired power plants over the next four years in Colorado (also on our map now). The move is being touted as the first time an energy provider has volunteered to shutter a plant because of emissions. To replace the 229 megawatts of capacity that will be lost, Xcel hopes to install cleaner burning natural gas turbines as well continue development of solar and wind projects across the state.


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