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From Here to New Energy


Anybody capable of telling the truth has to admit it is time to stop using coal to generate electricity. The evils of burning black rocks begin with black lung and environmental degradation and culminate in the dark forebodings of the worst impacts from global climate change.

The question remains, however, of how to enlighten decision-makers and move them toward a future powered without burning. Coal Plants in Transition: An Economic Case Study, a new report from Natural Capitalism Solutions, answers that question in explicit detail. Far from science fiction about a New Energy dream, the report is business-oriented. It is directed at working utility managers and energy providers who bear the enormous burden of keeping the nation’s lights on at the most affordable rates.

The report looks at Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a 2,250-megawatt, 35-year-old coal plant, and asks what the costs and benefits would be from keeping it going by retrofitting and upgrading it to meet current pollution and air quality requirements and what the costs and benefits would be from replacing it. Using low, medium and high market price scenarios for all variables, it explores the upgrade and replacement options and demonstrates in cold hard numbers that a transition to New Energy and Energy Efficiency is the right thing to do from a purely business-oriented point of view. ::continue::

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A retrofit would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, leaving a shift to New Energy and Energy Efficiency as a highly viable economic option worth studying. Building wind, photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP), geothermal, and biomass capacity and advancing consumer efficiencies are not only economically viable options but could add profits for utilities through the use of options such as pollution offset credits (Renewable Energy Credits, RECs), emissions trading system credits (emissions allowances), the sale of unneeded water rights and through savings from not having to purchase fuel.

A medium price scenario concluded the Navajo Generating Station coal plant could be replaced with no threat to the reliability of the energy supply and the expectation of a yearly revenue surplus of $157.6 million.

The report includes an online calculator that allows energy managers to plug in parameters applicable to any project and determine their own most cost-effective choices.

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This post is based on Transition from Coal to Clean Energy Makes Good Business Sense; Economic Study Demonstrates Profitability for Utilities (March 4, 2010, Natural Capitalism Solutions) and Coal Plants in Transition: An Economic Case Study, by Paul Sheldon, Emily Evans, Nick Sterling, et. al. (March 2010, Natural Capitalism Solutions)

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