A post on Earth Policy Institute describes the difficulty power companies are having in getting coal fired power plants approved. There first paragraph sums up the difficulty they are having:
With concerns about climate change mounting, the era of coal-fired electricity generation in the United States may be coming to a close. In early 2007, a U.S. Department of Energy report listed 151 coal-fired power plants in the planning stages in the United States. But during 2007, 59 proposed plants were either refused licenses by state governments or quietly abandoned. In addition, close to 50 coal plants are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely be challenged when they reach the permitting stage.
The post goes on to outline 18 events that have occurred in the last year that have contributed to this dilemma. The latest action was the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives that would block the EPA and states from issuing permits to new coal-fired power plants that lack state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage, CCS, technology. A comment added to this item was: Since this technology is at least a decade away from commercial viability, if this bill passes it would essentially place a near-term moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.
We have an urgent need for more power production and some way of providing this power must be provided. If the bill introduced in house should pass, as proposed, we would be dependent on renewable energy, nuclear power and conservation to provide the power in the near term. Since these options would not be sufficient, we could only hope that this bill would not pass or it would be modified before passage.
I disagree that CCS technology is at least a decade from commercial viability -- I believe that at least one technology will be successfully demonstrated in 5-7 years. We have at least four CCS technologies in the testing stage and I would propose that coal fired power plants be allowed to be built, 1) under more stringent conditions that the power is needed, 2) that they be located where carbon sequestration can take place and 3) that they be built so that the emerging CCS technologies can be easily adapted to the plant. Their are two ammonia based systems and two amine based systems that I am aware of. It may be necessary to pick one of these technologies or it may be possible to provide (perhaps massive) piping connections that would allow any process to be connected.
While many will say that conservation of electricity is the answer, it is only part of the solution. It will take many years before a structured plan could be put in place. It may be possible that certain industries could be found where conservation could be mandated, if that can be done constitutionally. Higher prices for electricity may end up being the the greatest force causing conservation. Practices that reduce electrical consumption in the home have been written about by many and these should receive more widespread availability. A simple search on your favorite search engine using the search words "home electricity efficiency" brings up several sources including this one, How to Save Electricity in Your Home from the Edison Electric Institute.
Nuclear and Renewable energy simply cannot be brought up to speed fast enough to meet all our needs, although I think they should be accelerated as fast as possible. Incentives for renewables should be maintained until the industries are fully sustainable. Geothermal energy has become my favorite renewable energy because it is a baseload power provider, and with new, hot dry rock, HDR, technology can be located in almost all areas of the world, as such it should receive much more funding for demonstration plants from the government. At least four geothermal projects, two funded by DOE and one in France and one in Germany using HDR technology are already underway. Although a large number of HDR plants could be built with existing technology, it might take 10 or 15 years before this technology can be applied universally.
An exception could be made on my, and the US governments, stand that only a few generation III+ nuclear plants can be be built until they have demonstrated that they can operated safely. If it could be shown that the AP1000 and AREVA plants, and any other that meet US criteria, have been safely and successfully operated in a foreign country, the requirement for operation in the US could be waived.