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Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 11:45am

A Call To Shut Down Coal-Fired Generators

The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy say hundreds of old coal-fired generators should be shut down across the country. A study commissioned by the groups cites 22 units in Georgia, the most of any state. It’s a question of whether it’s worth the cost to retro-fit the facilities with pollution controls.

The study found the average age of Georgia’s coal-fired generators is 43 years old. And many would need millions of dollars in retro-fits to bring them up to today’s pollution control standards.

Ulla Reeves with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says it’s often cheaper to retire the units.

She says “The cost impact to customers from keeping these old coal units online is too high in many cases. And we hope to see many of the units named in this report on their retirement list next year.”

The report recommends investing more in natural gas, wind and solar energy. It says retiring the aging coal-fired generators would also eliminate carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking 5.4 million cars off the roads.

Georgia Power owns 21 of the Georgia units named in the study. Company spokesman Mark Williams says the company has already retired two coal-fired units and announced the closure of two more.

“We’ve spent 6 billion dollars installing environmental controls on various plants. We are exploring new alternatives with nuclear and natural gas and renewables such as solar. So we do believe in a diverse generating mix. Coal is an important part of that, but so are other things.” he says.

Marilyn Brown, a professor of energy policy at Georgia Tech, says it gets down to the age of the coal-fired generator. She says some have plenty of life left in them.

She say some companies are adding biomass like wood pellets to their coal-fired generators to burn cleaner and extend the life of a plant.