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Powerful Living


The co-op maintains a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS), which allows the G&T to comply with air emission standards put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). CEMS allows utilities to continuously collect, record and report required emissions data. Currently, WFEC is implementing measures to be in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, which governs emissions of metals like mercury and acid gases. WFEC Environmental Coordinator Gerald Butcher, who has been with the cooperative for over 30 years, said environmental regulations and compliance standards have become more stringent through the years. Still, electric cooperative leaders believe the key to delivering safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to consumer-members remains in keep- ing a diverse energy mix to include coal, natural gas, nuclear and renew- ables such as hydropower, wind and solar.


Advantages & Challenges of Coal Butcher points out electric co-ops are good stewards of the environ- ment, but co-ops are also committed to maintaining affordable costs for members. Coal allows co-ops to keep the baseload electricity at a stable and low-cost value. “We need fuel diversity. The price of natural gas and its availability is questionable in the winter months,” Butcher said. “If that’s the only fuel we can rely on, we may have an availability problem. The price of coal is more stable, and it’s getting to be a pretty clean fuel. Plus, having coal in the mix means lower rates for our members.”


Sonntag, who has been in the electric generation business for over 15 years, could not agree more. “Coal is the backbone of energy usage. Its cost is relatively cheap and it’s not volatile,” he said. In 2013, WFEC reported 12 percent gas-fi red generation, 19 percent economy purchases from other power suppliers, 7 percent hydro, 15 percent from wind facilities (for which WFEC does not retain or retire the environmental attributes), and 14 percent from contract purchases, consisting of coal, gas, wind and hydro power. Gilleland believes WFEC is strategically positioned to meet the energy needs of its member-systems while carrying out compliance with envi- ronmental regulations. “Diversity helps in the reliability of units. Occasionally there can be transportation challenges with coal. In circumstances like that, it’s im- portant to have coal stored on site and to have natural gas generation to fall back on, but sometimes we may run out of gas, which can be curtailed or disrupted,” Gilleland said. “Natural gas prices are highly volatile and increased during very cold spells this past winter as much as 10 times over. We believe in coal generation as part of a diverse, economical, reli- able power supply portfolio.”


Electric cooperative leaders are urging consumer-members to speak up


to EPA with regards to infeasible proposed regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fi red plants. These regulations, if implemented, will hinder the cost of generating electricity economically and impact co-op members’ pocketbooks. To join more than half a million support- ers and send a message to EPA requesting an “all-of-the-above,” diverse- fuel-source electricity generation approach, visit www.action.coop.





We need fuel diversity. Having coal in the mix means lower rates for our members.


- Gerald Butcher, WFEC Environmental Coordinator


Over the years, the price of coal has remained relatively stable while the price of natural gas fl uctuates. Coal is a time-tested fossil fuel used to generate baseload electricity.


“ JUNE 2014 9


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