Plant emissions drop dramatically again
Alabama Power in 2012 continued its long-term trend of reducing key air emissions at its power plants.
Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) were down 30 percent in 2012. Emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) were down 28 percent last year. Since 1996, NOx and SO2 emissions at company plants are down by 78 percent and 76 percent, respectively.
Lower emissions in 2012 were the result of a combination of factors, including a reduction in coal-fired generation, an increase in the use of natural gas, plus the benefit of years of emission-control investments.
“For more than a decade, Alabama Power has met the challenge of complying with increasingly stringent environmental regulations,” said Vice President of Environmental Affairs Matt Bowden. “By focusing on cost-effective measures, we’ve reduced emissions significantly while continuing to meet the needs of our customers for reliable, affordable power.”
Coal-fired power plants produced 54 percent of Alabama Power’s electricity generation in 2012, down from nearly 77 percent in 1999. Natural gas generation, in contrast, made up 18 percent of total generation in 2012, up from about 1 percent in 1999. Emission-free nuclear and hydro generation made up the remaining 28 percent of Alabama Power generation in 2012.
Last year, the company switched from coal to natural gas at Plant Gadsden’s two generating units. While the decision was primarily an economic one, based on lower natural gas prices, it also provided environmental benefits.
Alabama Power is adding environmentally friendly energy from wind to its fuel mix. Last year, the company began receiving energy from a wind farm in Oklahoma, and by the end of this year, is expected to receive energy from a wind farm in Kansas. Combined, the two power purchase agreements will provide enough energy to supply up to 115,000 homes.
Alabama Power is receiving the wind energy at a competitive price, but also receives other benefits from the purchase agreements. Under both agreements, the company has the flexibility to use generated wind energy to serve customers and retire the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) or sell the energy and RECs to others, either separately or bundled together.
Other changes at Alabama Power plants are expected to provide environmental benefits. By 2016, the company plans to use natural gas as a primary fuel at several units currently fueled by coal at Plant Gaston. The company plans to add additional emission controls to large coal units at Gaston and Plant Gorgas in the next few years. Adjustments on units at Plant Greene County and Plant Barry will provide additional emission reductions.
Alabama Power has invested nearly $3 billion during the past decade to comply with government-mandated environmental regulations, installing highly effective controls on nearly two-thirds of its coal-fired generating capacity. Through 2016, the company plans to invest another $1 billion to meet the latest round of emission regulations.