Top 20 Power Plants, See You in San Diego

Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

This issue is one of the year’s most anticipated because it contains the power plant operating performance rankings. Plant managers and employees are always anxious to see if their plants and others made the top 20 list. This year, changes in the Energy Information Administration’s filing deadlines made the gas-fired power plants information unavailable before Electric Light & Power’s deadline. If you’re most interested in those rankings, don’t worry; I plan to gather the information and include those lists in an upcoming issue.

When you look at the rankings beginning on Page 18, you’ll notice some look similar to last year’s, and others don’t. One of the most telling items is the decrease in megawatt-hours generated in 2009 compared with 2008. Coal units produced about 12 percent less electricity in 2009 than in 2008, while nuclear units’ total generation decreased little–less than 2 percent.

Tom Hewson of Energy Ventures Inc. compiles the data and creates the tables for me each year. He attributes the decrease in coal generation partly to the recession and partly to coal units’ being displaced by gas-fired plants and, in some cases, wind generation. Even without a climate change bill limiting carbon emissions, which probably won’t be passed in the next two years, electricity producers are shutting down their less efficient, dirtier coal units rather than investing in emissions technology retrofits, repowering or fuel switching. When I compiled my stories Nov. 22 (the same day I’m writing this commentary) for the weekly video on the Electric Light & Power website, three of the five stories mentioned utilities’ shutting down coal-fired power plants.

FirstEnergy Corp. is canceling its plans to repower two units with biomass at its R.E. Burger Plant (312 MW total) and instead permanently will shut down the units by Dec. 31. It cited weak electricity prices.

Calpine just bought nearly 2,000 MW of generating capacity in Delaware and committed to use natural gas as the primary fuel source at the Edge Moor Energy Center, which includes 252 MW of capacity previously fueled by coal.

And Exelon, in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, will retire four Pennsylvania fossil units with 933 MW of capacity.

Natural gas again has become the fuel of choice and probably will remain so, at least as long as prices don’t climb too much. Natural gas price has remained low for some time, and experts say it will continue to stay low as new domestic sources such as the Marcellus Shale gas are brought to market.

While coal will continue to be a major fuel source for electricity generation for years, older, less efficient and dirtier plants won’t be part of the U.S. coal fleet. These units will continue to be shut down and replaced with cleaner generating technology, some of which will be more efficient and cleaner coal-fired units.

On another note, as you bid farewell to 2010 and plan for 2011, don’t forget to add the Electric Light & Power Executive Conference to your to-do list. This second annual event will be Jan. 30 and 31 in sunny San Diego. With help from a great advisory committee, Associate Editor Kristen Wright and I have recruited a stellar lineup who will address some of the industry’s most relevant topics.

We’ve lined up two hard-hitting keynote speakers–Stuart Varney, Fox News business and financial journalist, and Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot and founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and Patriot Golf Day–as well as Danielle DiMartino Booth of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who will give her outlook on the economy and its recovery.

We’ve also planned an awesome and relaxing networking dinner at the legendary beachfront Hotel del Coronado. If you want to extend your stay in San Diego (who wouldn’t in the dead of winter?), attendees are invited to stay over for the DistribuTECH keynote address Tuesday, Feb. 1. If that’s not enough, for $125 you can upgrade to become a full-conference DistribuTECH delegate and spend the entire week networking and learning about the latest electricity trends and technologies.

Please review the conference description and speaker list on Pages 40 and 41. You can find more details at http://elpconference.com. I hope to see you there.

 

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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