The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the oldest fleet of coal plants in the South, is looking at shutting down its oldest coal-fired facilities. In April, I blogged about the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) admitting it would be “very difficult, if not impossible” to meet court-ordered pollution controls that would clean up four of its oldest coal-fired power plants.
Now, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that TVA is studying whether it should shut down its John Sevier Fossil Plant and six of the oldest units at Widows Creek Fossil Plant, both named in the lawsuit. Although the utility hasn’t made a decision, it doesn’t make sense to go back and install significant pollution control devices at these units.
TVA is yet to budget money to clean the plants up, but they have budgeted $820 million to replace the John Sevier plant with combined-cycle natural gas power generation, a cleaner alternative to fossil fuel. Many power companies are scaling back electricity production from coal plants and shifting toward natural gas, due to reduced demand created by the economic downfall.
While we do not see natural gas generation as a long term solution to global warming, it does reduce CO2 emissions by 40-50% when compared to older coal. This is fast and significant. Limited natural gas generation as a replacement to old coal plants can serve as an important bridge as we transition to greater energy efficiency and cleaner renewables.[podcast]http://media.timesfreepress.com/audio/2009/08/Stephen_Smith_0824.mp3[/podcast]Stephen Smith for Chattanooga Times Free Press