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Making Strides with Clean-Coal Technology By Angela Perez


♻ NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network works to make better use of abundant resource


Despite the recent “green”


energy revolution and the explosion of natural gas drilling rigs across the American landscape, our nation’s primary fuel for producing electricity is coal—as it has been for more than a century. Electricity in the U.S.


generated by coal fell from 42 percent in 2011 to 37.5 percent in 2012, largely because of low natural gas prices, the retirement of older coal-fired power plants due to new emissions regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and uncertainty about further regulations in the future. But coal is far from dead.


Electricity from coal is predicted to rise about 3 percent this year while natural gas’s contribution will drop from 30.5 percent to 27.3 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short- Term Energy Outlook for 2013. And natural gas prices are forecasted to rise this year due to higher demand and a slowdown in production. “Coal still has a future as a


source of electricity,” says OEC CEO Max Meek. “Whether you are for or against the use of coal to generate electricity, the fact is that the United States remains home to the largest reserves of coal in the world. Tat’s why electric cooperatives like OEC are


12 March 2013


fully behind efforts to explore and test clean-coal technologies.” One driver in the effort is


EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, designed to significantly curb emissions of hazardous air pollutants, such as mercury and arsenic, from coal- and oil-fired electric generating units 25 MW or larger by 2016. Some coal-fired generating units will be shut down, rather than retrofitted, because the needed changes would be too expensive to implement. America’s electric cooperatives


and the trade association that represents them, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), are exploring new approaches to


burn coal more cleanly. NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN) recently completed a demonstration of an innovative new multi-pollutant control system that shows promise for helping coal-fired power plants meet stringent emissions standards advanced by EPA. Even better, the technologies tested do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional measures. Te demonstration, conducted


in July 2012 at a power plant owned and operated by Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, a generation and transmission co-op (G&T) based in Benson, Ariz., was sponsored by CRN along with a coalition of 10 G&Ts and other industry


The United States holds the world’s largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal and is a net exporter of coal. In 2011, our nation’s coal mines produced more than a billion short tons of coal, and more than 90 percent of this coal was used by U.S. power plants to generate electricity. Source: Norfolk Southern Company


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