Wednesday, December 02, 2009

N.C. utility to shut 11 coal plants, switch to gas

North Carolina-based Progress Energy says it will close 11 of its coal-fired power plants in the state by 2017. The utility plans to replace the plants' 1,500 megawatts of electricity with natural gas instead of retrofitting the plants with new technology to meet environmental rules that are likely to become more strict, John Murawski of The News & Observer in Raleigh reports.

The utility said the cost of replacing the plants, all built between 1949 and 1972, with natural gas facilities would be around $1.5 billion while retrofitting them would cost at least $2 billion. The decision, which still has to be approved by the state Utilities Commission, may signal the beginning of the end of coal-powered electricity in a state where more than half the electricity somes from burning coal, Murawski reports. Progress will keep 3,600 megawatts of coal-fired power in the state. (Read more)

Gov. Beverly Perdue called the decision "important for North Carolina's air quality" and "good for the environment and the economy." Progress said it sees gas as a short-term bridge until it can build two nuclear facilities in the next decade, Rebecca Smith of The Wall Street Journal reports. CEO Bill Johnson said the move to gas would help the company cut its carbon-dioxide emissions significantly, but not by the 17 percent President Obama wants by 2020. "It's still a single-digit number for us, but it's moving in the right direction," Johnson told Smith. "I think others will follow." (Read more)

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