Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Green Lipstick on a Sooty-black Pig?

Some of you out there may have recently caught wind of Santee Cooper's new "committment" to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

The "initiative" calls for 40% of S-C's power to come from "non-greenhouse gas emitting resources, biomass fuels, energy efficiency and conservation by 2020."

Great right?

Well, not so fast.

Santee Cooper is insisting on building its 2 coal plants along the Pee Dee -- in addition to two identical plants in Berkeley County, for a total of 4 coal plants within 10 years. Together they'll emit approximately 18 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, every year, for 50 years (total = 870 million tons). According to data S-C submitted to the Department of Energy, they emitted nearly 21 million tons of CO2 in 2005. So these four plants will increase S-C CO2 emissions by at least 84%. How will this square with their goal to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020?

Not well.

So, S-C doesn't appear very earnest to reduce its GHG emissions as long as it is on a coal plant binge.

But even so, you might ask, isn't 40% from renewables and efficiency a good thing?

It would be if the numbers bore that out.

According to the presentation at S-C's latest board meeting at which this "green" plan was announced, 10% of the 40% will come from existing nuclear power, less than 1% of the 40% will come from existing renewables (mostly landfill gas), 21% of the 40% from new nuclear power plants, and no more than 9% of the 40% from biomass and efficiency.

This isn't so bad if your a fan of nuclear power, though many utility industry insiders are grumbling that Santee Cooper's nuclear goals are unreachable and irresponsible. Still nuclear power is certainly GHG emission-free. Leaving the economics and waste issues of nuclear aside, if you feel that efficiency and renewables should be exploited to their limit before focusing too heavily on nuclear fuel, then you might wish for more.

For instance, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina recently released a report showing that they could produce the equivalent of 20% of their power from efficiency by 2017. So why stop at something less than 9% from efficiency?

So even on the truly clean energy side of things (efficiency and renewables) Santee Cooper isn't really putting its money where its mouth is.

For those interested in reading more on this issue, opposing opinion pieces ran this past Sunday in the Myrtle Beach Sun News here and here.

Finally, from MSNBC: "Chinese scientists have successfully bred partially green fluorescent pigs" (click on photo below, if you dare)

Coal Round-up

Three more mercury articles over at the Post and Courier today! Here's one on mercury and DHEC, one on the new federal mercury rule, and one on mercury and wildlife. Thanks to the P&C for giving this serious issue wider exposure. In case folks out there think the Post and Courier is a liberal rag, here's a recent USA Today article along the same lines.

Meanwhile, the P&C has been infested with "clean coal" advertisements (you were warned). Take me up on my challenge. Visit this "clean coal" website and let me know if you are convinced that this dirty rock is "America's fuel."

Finally, fighting coal is not just for environmentalists anymore, according to this article. Who are environmentalists anyway if not people who actually give a d*#@ about our well-being and our children's well being (i.e. instead of enriching oneself at everyone else's expense). This article makes that case, at least for folks out West, nicely.

Monday, October 29, 2007

First Monday Breakfast Club Meets to Discuss Energy Issues

This morning, October 29, 2007, the First Monday Breakfast Club hosted John Ramsburgh of Conservation Voters of South Carolina. The following video of the event provides an excellent update on energy issues that we are currently facing in South Carolina, the proposed Santee-Cooper coal fired plant, and alternative energy options to that plant.

Video thumbnail. Click to play
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Mercury Rising

Every year the U.S. EPA and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control release reports containing an inventory of industry emissions. These reports essentially tally up the amount and types of pollutants that are released into the environment by large polluters such as coal-fired power plants, steel mills, cement factories and incinerators.

Although there are differences between both state and federal inventories, both unequivocally agree that South Carolina’s coal-fired electric generators are the biggest source of manmade mercury pollution in the state.

According to the EPA’s 2005 Toxic Release Inventory, coal fired plants pumped over 1,460 pounds of mercury into the air and water. DHEC’s found this number to be more to the tune of 1,630 pounds of toxic mercury per year. [From Post and Courier Oct. 29, 2007 “Need for Power Fuels Mercury Contamination” by Tony Bartelme]

Either number is not a good sign. Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main source of poisoning in people. Mercury has been linked to brain damage, heart disease, as well as other health problems, and can be fatal to developing fetuses.

But what does this mean for South Carolinians?

A Post and Courier study released Oct. 28, 2007 [“The Mercury Connection” by Tony Bartelme] found the following…

--Of 41 people tested for The Post and Courier, 17 who eat freshwater fish from South Carolina rivers had hair samples with mercury levels higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Twenty-four had samples higher than what's typically found nationally in people who frequently eat fish.

--Six who were tested had mercury levels that would put them in the top 1 percent of those measured in a recent nationwide study. Leading mercury scientists and doctors contacted by the newspaper urged those with the highest levels to consider medical attention.

--State health officials have done little to document this toxin in people, especially those in poverty-stricken rural areas who depend on fish as a main source of food. Three years ago, DHEC acquired a $250,000 scanner capable of measuring mercury in human blood. This year, it acquired another scanner. So far, the agency has tested only one member of the public, a doctor from Hilton Head.

--Some of the state's worst mercury hot spots are in the Lowcountry near industrial polluters. Between Conway and Florence, hot spots form a "Mercury Triangle" where fish are so full of mercury that the state warns against eating a single bite of some species. Highly contaminated fish also are in hot spots on the outskirts of the Charleston metro area in the Edisto River, Four Holes Swamp and the Black River.

--Mercury contamination is a well-documented global problem in ocean fish, especially in large predator fish, such as swordfish and shark. But many freshwater fish caught from South Carolina's mercury hot spots have levels two to five times higher than swordfish off the coast, DHEC data shows. In fact, average mercury levels are so high in fish from some South Carolina rivers that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could order a national recall if they were sold in stores.

Do we really want to allow Santee Cooper to add an additional 300 pounds of mercury to our environment every year?

Fish DHEC Says to Avoid: Catfish (especially on the Little and Great Pee Dee rivers, Four Hole Swamp, Edisto and Black rivers), Largemouth bass (especially on the Black, Combahee, Edisto, Little Pee Dee, Great Pee Dee, Coosawhatchie rivers, Four Hole Swamp), Bowfin (Mudfish) (especially on South Santee, Edisto, LittlePee Dee, Great Pee Dee, Coosawatchie rivers, Four Hole Swamp), Chain Pickerel (especially on Little Pee Dee, Great Pee Dee, Lumbee, Edisto rivers, Four Hole Swamp), Warmouth (especially Four Hole Swamp, Edisto River).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breakfast Club

Attend the Florence First Monday Breakfast Club's talk on the Pee Dee coal plant in the AM; take what you learn to Senator Leatherman's Pamplico public meeting in the PM.

Public Meeting to be held 10/29/07 in Pamplico

There will be a public meeting held by Senator Hugh Leatherman on the subject of the Pee Dee plant on Monday, October 29th at 6PM. The meeting will take place at the Hannah-Pamplico High School in Florence County.

Please attend and voice your opinion on the coal plant.

Coal vs. Gecko

A a week or so ago I brought Americans for Balanced Energy Choices to your attention. They're a group that plans to market coal to Americans though the media.

Now they've got a website up and running as well as a commercial that has been airing on CNN. You tell me: which is more appealing, the big hunk of black coal, or the Gecko? Is anyone convinced that coal is anything other than what this ad implies: a dirty and archaic way of generating electricity?

By the way, while you're over at the Americans for a Balanced Energy Choices website, be sure to check out the "Americans" that are its supporters. Looks like a long list of utilities, mining operations, and the railroads that link them.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Santee Cooper Sued

Santee Cooper, whose avowed mission is "to provide reliable power at the lowest cost possible" is being sued, according to the Sun News.

An Horry County businessman is leading a lawsuit that was served on Santee Cooper on Thursday, claiming the utility wrongly imposed a rate increase on its residential and commercial customers.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, claims that in 1994 or 1995, Santee Cooper imposed a lawful rate increase to pay off a capital expansion debt.

The increase as approved required the state-owned utility to reduce the rates after the debt was paid, the lawsuit says, but rates were never cut.

The lawsuit asks that the money be returned to customers.

"We believe it involves hundreds of millions of dollars," said Gedney Howe of Charleston, the lead attorney in the case.

And South Carolina is supposed to trust Santee Cooper when it says it needs a coal plant, that this plant is being built for the express purpose of keeping the lights on for the residents of the Grand Strand?

The plaintiffs in this law suit allege that S-C raised rates on its residential and commercial customers in order to subsidize special rates for industry and power sold out of state.

Could it be that the same dynamic is at play with the Pee Dee plant (i.e. cheap power for back-room business deals, not "keeping the lights on"; windfalls for special interests, not low rates and a high quality of life South Carolina's residents and business-owners)?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What do you want for Christmas?

From the Union Daily Times:

The other present I want [for Christmas] is 300 watts of green energy, only instead of Santa Claus bringing it down my chimney, I'm going to pay Santee Cooper for it. The company, through Broad River Electric Cooperative, is offering residential and commercial customers green power derived from solar energy or methane gas extracted from landfills. Residential customers can get 100-watt blocs and commercial customers 200-watt blocs. The residential blocs cost $3 a month and that's what I'd planned to start with until my wife, Melony, suggested we go ahead and get three blocs for $9 a month, so that's what we're going to do.

We're not going to wait for Christmas to do it, either - and may not wait for the canvas bags, as Melony's thinking about making us some - because the sooner we all start buying green power the better. Santee Cooper is trying to build a coal-fired power plant on the Great Pee Dee River. The last thing South Carolina - and this world - needs is another facility spewing fossil fuel pollution into an already too-polluted atmosphere.

The Coastal Conservation League estimates the plant will put 300 lbs. of mercury, 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of tons of smog and soot-forming pollutants into the atmosphere every year. The League also states that the plant would create coal ash landfills hundreds of acres in size near the river and use millions of gallons of water a day impacting 100 acres of wetlands.

This won't happen if we consumers use our dollars to tell Santee Cooper and other utility companies that we want green power. The $9 a month I'm going to be spending on green power isn't much, but if everyone in this state who has the opportunity to do so bought that much green power or more it would send a powerful message that when it comes to saving the environment, South Carolinians are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
Members of the state's 20 Co-ops or Santee Cooper customers can currently buy green power. They should seize this opportunity, since others in the state will have to wait.

Santee Cooper has announced plans to offer green power statewide, however, as of last week, these plans have yet to be finalized. The state's investor owned utilities have long been planning to start their own green power program, dubbed Palmetto Clean Energy (see this press release from SC's Office of Regulatory Staff). No word yet from these folks as to when green power will be available for purchase.

Hopefully by Christmas either Santee Cooper or the Palmetto Clean Energy people will have a state-wide program operating, but at this rate, you're more likely to get coal in your stocking.

Statewide alternatives to a new coal plant are needed now. This includes the ability to purchase verified green power from your utility (NC GreenPower, the North Carolina program upon which Palmetto Clean Energy is rumored to be based, cannot guarantee the money you send them is actually invested in renewable energy), as well as a full-service programs to help you save energy in your home.

Instead of aggressively developing and promoting such services, most utilities in this state continue with plans for large scale generation projects, either coal or nuclear, with the occasional green-washing PR event, while low-hanging fruit is left unharvested.

Consider contacting your utility, whether Santee Cooper or Progress Energy, and demanding both: (1) verifiable renewable energy and (2) comprehensive energy efficiency programs -- that way you could expect to find both a cleaner environment and a fatter wallet under the Christmas Tree (and hopefully no coal in your stocking).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fortune 500?

From Forbes.com:

A new report from Standard & Poor's says many public power and electric cooperatives utilities are still investing in coal-fired plants, despite rising efforts to curtail operations of existing ones and prevent new facilities from being built.

Although the industry is designing new plants that limit emissions, the report says many industry experts believe utilities will not effectively control carbon emissions for another 10 to 20 years because of technological and economic constraints.

"We recognize that coal-fired assets meet the pressing need for economical baseload capacity, particularly after the long hiatus since utilities last added large quantities of this type capacity to their generation fleets," said S&P credit analyst David Bodek. "Yet, our evaluations must also recognize the financial impact that carbon emission constraints might have on coal operators in coming years."

The report said financial margins for utilities could deteriorate as additional expenses are incurred, and credit quality would suffer. These costs could result from financing new capacity additions, emissions controls for existing facilities, fuel switching to natural gas or renewable resources, or compliance with regulatory directives, such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems.
Despite warnings from Wall Street, Santee Cooper continues to plunge headlong into a massive coal plant project. They've recently been aided an abetted by the Metro Charleston Chamber of Commmerce, which endorsed the project recently. One can only assume that the MCCC believes "deteriorating financial margins" for the state's electric utility are good for regional economic development. Or maybe, they didn't even do the research before making their endorsement.
“Low cost and reliable power are listed consistently as top reasons by companies looking to relocate or expand,” read a statement from Charles Van Rysselberge, president and CEO of the chamber.

The $1 million coal-fired generation facility is expected to add 1,400 jobs during construction, and create 100 full-time jobs with an average salary of $50,000 once completed, the release said.
Once again, one has to wonder if SC's pro-coal business community (including Santee Cooper and the MCCC) have done their homework. Standard and Poor's doesn't seem to think electricity from coal is going to stay low cost very long. As for jobs, what sounds better? 1,400 temporary jobs; 100 permanent jobs from an automated coal plant, with no guarantee regarding how many of these jobs will be sourced locally, or the kinds of numbers suggested by all the recent studies on the amounts of local jobs created by clean energy technologies (e.g. tens of thousands).

Again, it makes one wonder: when folks speak of "economic development" -- whose are they talking about?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore, U.N. Body Win Nobel Peace Prize

By DOUG MELLGREN / Associated Press Writer
OSLO, Norway --

Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize today (Friday October 12, 2007) for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it.

"I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize," Gore said. "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on global warming, won an Academy Award this year and he had been widely expected to win the prize.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming, "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

Gore said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million that accompanies the prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization devoted to conveying the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

Used Coal Salesmen

If only what happened in Vegas, really did stay in Vegas. Unfortunately, this piece of news is likely to find its way to South Carolina soon.

An industry front group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices last month began soliciting proposals from Nevada public relations firms interested in providing services such as public education, media relations and outreach to presidential candidates in the state. The group is funded by the coal, railroad and utility industries.

The National Journal recently reported that the organization's budget will go from $8 million in 2007 to about $30 million in 2008, most of which will pay for outreach and advertising campaigns nationally, and in Nevada and Pennsylvania in particular.

Joe Lucas, executive director of the organization, downplayed the spending. He said the group's national budget will increase to $30 million to $40 million in 2008 because it "recognizes the job (of selling coal) is harder to do," but he declined to say how much it will spend in Nevada. He also said that the group hasn't decided whether to hire a PR firm here, and that it received few responses to the request for proposals.
Like a lot of places in the United States, Nevada is beset by misguided coal plant projects. But why should South Carolinians beware of a well-organized, well-funded effort to wash the dirt from coal?
[Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, a non profit watchdog organization] thinks the group will try to use a Nevada campaign as a springboard to gain momentum in the national debate on coal, and the strategy could be effective "unless people really ask questions and think about who's funding it."
When the "coal is clean" campaign comes to our state, riding to the rescue of Santee Cooper, ask yourself: who's funding it? And can coal really ever be clean? Nope.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Photos from Coal Fired Plant Site

These photos were taken Weds. October 10, 2007 on the perimeter of Santee Cooper’s Wildlife Management Area, the site where the proposed coal fired plant would be built. The first couple of photos are taken of future ash pond and landfill locations which closely abut the property of a family living in Pamplico, SC. The photos of the Great Pee Dee River were taken from the limestone bluffs, which will also be adjacent to a solid waste landfill.

Stopping Dirty Investments

The Rainforest Action Network recently launched a campaign which aims to stop construction of coal plants at their very source: their capital investment. RAN is focusing on putting pressure on both the Bank of America and Citigroup because they finance coal company projects that cause carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and toxic mercury pollution.

Reuters (New York): By Steve James

...."These banks MUST set real goals to reduce the 'financed emissions' from their investment portfolio and start funding the future," RAN said, accusing the pair of pledging to address global climate change while still funding the coal companies.

RAN said that rather than phase-out coal and reduce dangerous emissions, coal's proponents are pushing for the construction of more than 150 new coal-fired power plants throughout the United States.

"This new coal rush would add between 600 million and 1.1 billion tons of additional C02 emissions annually and negate nearly every other effort currently on the table to combat climate change," the group said.

RAN said Citi pledged in May to direct $50 billion over the next 10 years to addressing global climate change through investments. "Financing for renewable energy, energy efficiency and improvements in energy infrastructure amount to $31 billion spread across 10 years.

"While this may seem like a significant commitment, it amounts to less than 0.2 percent of the company's $2.2 trillion in assets," the group said.

Citi underwrote more than $38 billion for the energy industry in 2006, it said, while financing just one transaction for alternative energy. In 2006 Citi financed 200 times more money for "dirty energy" than it did for alternative energy.

Similarly, it said Bank of America pledged in March to support environmentally sustainable business and to address global climate change. "Unfortunately, CEO Ken Lewis' lofty rhetoric is at odds with his company's track record," RAN said. "In 2006, Bank of America spent nearly 100 times more money on dirty energy than it did supporting clean energy."

Bank of America's new climate pledge commits less than 0.2 percent of the company's $1.5 trillion in assets to curbing climate change, it said.

"As long as Citi and Bank of America continue to fund dirty energy, they are holding back the resources needed for clean energy to flourish."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DHEC Issues Draft Air Permit to Santee Cooper

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a draft air quality permit for the two proposed 660 MW coal plants on the banks on the Great Pee Dee in Florence County yesterday.

The permit is a draft, which means the document has yet to be approved. In fact, they will be open for public comment until Friday, December 7 of this year. You can submit a comment here.

There will also be a public hearing on the draft permit on November 8, 2007 in the gym of Hannah-Pamplico High School in Pamplico, SC. There you can express your opinion in person regarding DHEC's decision to issue a draft permit for this plant.

Perhaps most disappointing, besides DHEC's refusal to delay its issue of the draft air permit until completion of the EIS process at the request of the Southern Environmental Law Center and the United States Department of Interior, among other concerned groups, is its decision not to require Santee Cooper use the best technology available to limit the pollution from its coal plant. DHEC did not require that Santee Cooper construct an IGCC unit, which is the cleanest coal burning technology available today -- instead DHEC, in its draft permit, has assented to Santee Cooper using one of the least technologically advanced and most dirty of the available coal combustion technologies.

DHEC's press release from Tuesday:

Please be advised that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Bureau of Air Quality, has drafted a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) air quality construction permit and Preliminary Determination for the proposed Santee Cooper Pee Dee power plant near Kingsburg, South Carolina. These documents have not yet been approved and are open to comment.

DHEC will hold a public hearing to allow interested persons the opportunity to express concerns and provide comments regarding the proposed plant and the air quality documents that have been drafted. A copy of Public Notice #07-095-PSD-N-H announcing the public hearing and 60-day public comment period is attached. This notice has been published in the Florence Morning News, The Sun News, and The State newspapers on Tuesday, October 9, 2007, and may also be viewed on DHEC’s website at any time during the public comment period. The 60-day public comment period begins today, October 9, 2007, and will officially close on Friday, December 7, 2007. In an effort to provide the public with convenient access to the draft and preliminary documents, the permit application, and other relevant correspondence, this information has been posted on DHEC’s website and can be viewed at: http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/baq/SanteeCooper.aspx. The attached public notice provides instructions for reviewing and/or obtaining hard copies of these documents and how to submit written comments.

The public hearing will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 8, 2007, in the gymnasium of Hannah-Pamplico High School in Pamplico, South Carolina. Please see the attached map or call the school at (843) 493-5781 for directions.

We would like to thank you for your comments and interest in this proposed project. Please bring this notice and public hearing to the attention of others you know who may be interested in Santee Cooper’s proposed Pee Dee Generating Station.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lights Out or Cheap Power? Choose Your Reason

Some food for thought as the week begins. Santee Cooper representatives are fond of implying that, if the Pee Dee coal plants aren't built, then the lights will go out all over South Carolina:

Santee Cooper CEO, Lonnie Carter:

Santee Cooper is charged with the responsibility of making sure the lights come on when the 2 million customers who depend on us flip the switch.... We need additional generation by 2012. Otherwise, we will be 370 megawatts short of projected demand that year, and 835 megawatts short in 2015.

Contrast that statement with this one I found on SCPrimeSite, "The online economic development resource of Santee Cooper," a site that market's Santee Cooper's "low-cost power" to relocating businesses:

South Carolina has power to spare.

That's right. Santee Cooper itself says so. Which is true? Lights out? Or power to spare? One might ask, does Santee Cooper's left arm know what the right is doing? More likely, S-C is talking out of both sides of its mouth. To the people of South Carolina: we need more power! and the quickest, dirtiest way possible! To big business: you want cheap power? We got plenty! Come and get it! (And we'll get you more, on the backs of unsuspecting South Carolinians).

Santee Cooper's Pee Dee plants are not about need for power; they are about an outmoded model of economic development (initiated during the great depression).

Do benefits of this hackneyed economic development strategy outweigh the social and environmental costs of a dirty coal plant?

Or should we pursue cost-effective, clean energy strategies -- and have our cake and eat it too?

Friday, October 5, 2007


Kudos to Jeanne Brooks of the Greenville News for pointing out how important clean energy is for our state:

[Santee Cooper] says renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation efforts can't help enough.

But South Carolina consumed the fourth highest amount of electricity per person in the nation in 2003.

We used more than Texas (No. 15), North Carolina (No. 16) and Georgia (No. 18). We used more than Florida (No. 27)!

We used so much electricity that although we pay one of the cheaper rates, the monthly bill for an average homeowner here was seventh highest in the country.

Conservation can't help? We haven't really tried.

...and connecting the dots between the Upstate and Santee Cooper's proposed Pee Dee Plant.
[The] Southern Environmental Law Center points out the coal-fired power plant that Santee Cooper wants to build on the Great Pee Dee River will release into the air each year thousands of tons of smog ingredients and the tiny sooty particles that, breathed in, can set off wheezing and heart attacks.

Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences, says there'll be -- not usually but sometimes -- days those smog ingredients and particles will reach the Upstate.

The plant will also release annually more than 300 pounds of mercury, a neurotoxin.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control already has mercury contamination advisories -- warnings -- against eating certain fish from 62 bodies of water in South Carolina and the Atlantic Ocean along our coastline.

Still another of the proposed power plant's future gifts: 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year for the next 50 or so years.
This is everybody's problem.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Images from the Plant Site

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

South Carolina's Electric Cooperatives Show Leadership: You've Got the Power

Yesterday, South Carolina's electric cooperatives, which provide power for over 700,000 South Carolinians in every county in the state, announced a major energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative.

They also released two landmark studies on the potential for energy efficiency and renewables in this state. The studies show what many in the state have long believed: efficiency and renewables are NOT theoretical options for the future. Instead, they offer REAL and PRACTICAL alternatives TODAY to traditional energy sources, such as coal.

For instance, the studies show that as much as 20% of the Cooperatives' customers’ power needs can be met with energy efficiency programs. Further, nearly 5% of need can be met through renewable energy. Together, this amounts to nearly 1700 MW of savings within 10 years (Santee Cooper's plans for a new coal plant in the Pee Dee region call for 1200 MW, and the Cooperatives are their #1 customer!).

The Cooperatives rightly point out that they cannot do this alone and that achieving these potentials will not be easy. The Cooperatives should be commended by all for taking this bold initiative and showing such farsighted leadership. The data uncovered by their studies and the initiatives that stem from them deserve the broadest support. If South Carolina's citizens, regulators, and political representatives all prioritize efficiency and renewables as the Cooperatives have shown a willingness to do, then the state will have its 1700 MW of clean energy within a decade.

From this morning's Post and Courier:

South Carolina residents can cut their electricity use by about a third and state utilities can get at least 3 percent of their power from renewable sources, according to two studies released Monday by the state's 20 electric cooperatives.

The cooperatives, nonprofit groups that serve 1.6 million South Carolina residents, touted these numbers while announcing a commitment to spend $10 million a year — roughly 1 percent of their revenue — on renewable energy and programs to help their members cut electricity use.

"This is pretty major," said Ron Calcaterra, chief executive officer of the Central Electric Power Cooperative. "And quite frankly, it's more than anyone else in the state is doing right now."

The money will bankroll a subsidy program to install 7 million ultra-efficient compact fluorescent lights in South Carolina homes over the next 10 years.

"The choice for us is very simple: Either we send the money to coal miners in West Virginia or we give it to our customers to use less energy," Calcaterra said.

read more

Monday, October 1, 2007

Coal Goes Nuclear

An older article by Alex Gabbard from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website is a very cogent overview of the little known fact that coal plants are a major source of radioactive materials. Comments along these lines were made at the EIS Scoping Meeting last Thursday in Florence, SC:

[Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers] concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations. This ironic situation remains true today and is addressed in this article.

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

read more