(Washington Examiner, August 24) – Less than 24 hours after the release of a major grid study that looks to help ailing coal plants, the Trump administration announced a $50 million pilot project to build two next-generation coal-fired power plants.
The Department of Energy announced the funding opportunity on Thursday “to design, construct and operate two large-scale pilots for transformational coal technologies that improve coal-powered systems’ performance, efficiency, emission reduction, and cost of electricity.”
The funding announcement follows the release of the agency’s much-anticipated grid study Wednesday night. The study made several policy recommendations, including encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency to ease regulations that punish coal plants for making efficiency improvements. The funding announcement corresponds with those recommendations.
The report targets the EPA New Source Review regulations, which power plant operators dread.
“New Source Review (NSR) regulations that can affect owners’ ability to enhance plant efficiency due to the delay, cost, and uncertainty associated with obtaining an NSR permit,” the report reads.
The regulations are triggered if a power plant is retrofitted beyond a certain point, requiring new clean air permits and regulatory measures. The review has been prohibitive to coal plants upping their efficiency. Ironically, NSR also keeps coal plants from reducing carbon dioxide emissions many scientists blame for driving man-made climate change, the grid report points out.
The Energy Department’s Thursday funding announcement said the coal projects would include three phases, which include thoroughly vetting environmental requirements.
The first phase is to secure team commitments, conduct cost estimates and design, construction, and operation schedules, in addition to securing cost-sharing funds for the construction and operation of the plants, and “complete an environmental information volume.”
Phase two involves the completion of all front-end engineering design studies and environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The third phase is selection of two projects for construction and operation.