Public power leads industry in air quality and renewable programs: APPA report

Washington, D.C., Jan. 9, 2006 — Community and state owned electric utilities continue to lead the electric utility industry in air quality programs and renewable energy activities, according to a report, “Public Power: Generating Greener Communities,” released by the American Public Power Association.

The report was funded by APPA’s Demonstration of Energy-Efficient Developments program.

The report compared data from a similar 2001 APPA study and found that public power systems’ emissions rates from fossil fuel generation for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide continue to be lower than those of other segments of the electric utility industry. Public power emissions are also lower for mercury, although mercury was not included for the 2001 report.

The 2005 report compiled Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to compare air quality emissions of the three sectors of the electric utility industry – publicly owned, cooperatively owned, and investor-owned – as well as for non-utility generators, which were not included in the 2001 report.

APPA pointed out that public power utilities have some of the highest ranked green power programs in terms of customer participation rates and lowest rates. “The data tell a story about the results of community ownership and local control of electric utilities. They contribute not only to public power’s lower rates but to agile, environmentally beneficial community decision making,” said Alan H. Richardson, president & CEO of APPA.

Richardson emphasized that while public power systems have a good track record, they will need to remain diligent to maintain their status as environmental leaders and meet their customers’ expectations.

“Demonstrated progress on greenhouse gas intensity reductions through voluntary efforts, implementing a variety of EPA rulemakings, using new clean renewable energy bonds created by the energy bill, maintaining existing zero-emission generation capacity, increasing energy efficiency and demand-side management, and maximizing use of landfill gas to energy projects will be only a few of the public policy and operational challenges ahead,” Richardson predicted.

There are more than 2,000 community and state owned electric utilities that serve more than 43 million customers. About 70 percent of them are located in cities with populations of 10,000 or less. About 645 public power systems own and operate generating plants, and collectively account for 9.6% of the nation’s electric generating capacity. About 30% of public power’s generating capacity is powered by coal, 32% by gas, 21% by water, 9% by nuclear, and 8% by oil. Almost 1% comes from other resources, such as wind power.

Significant findings of the report:

*Overall, public power emission rates of sulfur dioxide (in lbs/mmBtu) are 50% lower than those of the investor-owned utilities, 30% lower than the co-ops, and 33 percent lower than the NUGS. This compares to 53% lower than the IOUs and 37% lower than the co-ops highlighted in the 2001 report.

*Public power emission rates of nitrogen oxides are 14 percent lower than the IOUs, 21 percent lower than the co-ops, and 50 percent higher than the NUGs. This compares to 18 percent lower than the IOUs and 23 percent lower than the co-ops in the 2001 report.

*Public power emission rates of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel generation are 2.5% lower than the IOUs, 6.6% lower than the co-ops, but 11% higher than the NUGs, This compares to 5% higher than the IOUs and 1% lower than the co-ops in the 2001 report.

*Public power again has the largest percentage of its generation from sustainable resources, including hydropower and other renewable fuels.

*Public power has the largest percentage of “zero-emission generation” of any sector.

*Green pricing programs are offered by approximately 50% more public power utilities than the IOUs and nearly twice as many as the co-ops. The average pricing premium for the green power of public power systems is more than 30% less than the IOUs and slightly less than the co-ops.

*Public power has many other utility-specific programs to protect the environment and improve the sustainability of our energy resources.

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