Press Release | December 28, 2009

Coalition Calls on ODEC to Make a New Year’s Resolution and Scrap Hampton Roads Power Plant

In a year when electric utilities around the country have abandoned plans for 26 coal-fired power plants because of economic and regulatory uncertainties, Virginia clean energy advocates called on Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to save its customers money and protect the environment by scrapping the $6 billion, 1,500-megawatt plant proposed for Surry County.

The Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition urged ODEC to instead adopt a New Year’s resolution to fully utilize common-sense and cost-effective energy efficiency measures, and to take a lead role in establishing a strong renewable energy market in the Commonwealth. Both approaches would create long-term jobs in various sectors in Surry County and all across the ODEC’s service area, while also saving consumers money, the coalition said.

Just last week in Florida, the Seminole Electric Cooperative dropped plans for a 750-megawatt coal plant, “because of the uncertain regulatory and legal environment related to coal-fired generation,” according to a company spokesman. Elsewhere this past year, electric co-ops pulled out of projects or dropped plans for at least four other coal-fired power plants. Of the 26 total coal plants dropped, four were larger than 1,000-megawatt. “ODEC is going against the trend in pursuing a new coal plant,” said Glen Besa, Sierra Club’s Virginia Director. “There are more cost effective, environmentally responsible alternatives that ODEC should consider.”

“It’s time for ODEC to get off the couch and abandon its unhealthy, coal-heavy diet. The new year is the perfect time to commit to building a strong, vibrant economy with a regimen of green energy alternatives,” said Cale Jaffe, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“Resolving to lose weight or eat better is so 2009,” said Chelsea Harnish of Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The hottest new trend in 2010 is to break our reliance on dirty coal and choose instead a vibrant economy based on clean and efficient energy.”

“Local residents have been waging a year-long fight to stop the plant, which would have a tremendous impact on this rural community – air and water pollution, noise, dust and traffic,” said Kayti Wingfield, the coalition’s campaign coordinator. “This plant is also going to hit everyone hard in the pocketbook.”

In January 2009, a report on ODEC’s project by Synapse Energy Economics showed that, in addition to construction, fuel and operating costs, ODEC could take on costs between $223 million and $670 million annually by 2016 to pay for carbon emissions credits under a federal cap-and-trade program. As regulations become more stringent, that could rise to between $587 million and $1.76 billion a year by 2030. Alternatively, a mixture of energy efficiency measures, offshore wind, biomass, and natural gas generation providing the same power as the proposed plant would emit five times less carbon dioxide and cost ratepayers between 1.7 cents and 4.5 cents less per kilowatt-hour.

Other electric co-ops that have pulled out of projects they were part of, or dropped their own plans for facilities:

  • Basin Electric Power Cooperative, South Dakota
  • Southern Montana Electric, Montana
  • Alliant Energy/Interstate Power & Light, Iowa
  • Santee Cooper, South Carolina (after Central Electric Power Cooperative pulled out)

A full list of all coal plant projects abandoned in 2009 is available here:

In 2009 several companies also announced plans to start transitioning away from existing coal plants, many of which are decades old. Progress Energy said it will close several coal plants in North Carolina, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is considering phasing out parts of its fleet of plants in Tennessee and Alabama.

Since the beginning of the coal rush in 2001 when plans for more than 150 proposed coal plants were announced, 111 have been defeated or abandoned, keeping over 450 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year. Tens of thousands of concerned citizens across the country have joined the beyond coal movement, helping bring about tangible change in the way America is powered.

Total coal use is down in 2009 according to the Energy Information Agency, as the Obama administration considers new regulations for disposal of coal ash, and limiting emissions of mercury, soot, smog and global warming pollution from coal plants.