February 26, 2018 Read More →

Conservative Think Tank Faces a Tough Battle to Protect Coal Against Market-Force Headwinds

E&E News:

The Heartland Institute is launching an initiative to save the nation’s ailing coal plants.

The effort, presented by Heartland CEO and President Tim Huelskamp at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, amounts to the conservative response to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which seeks to eliminate coal from America’s electricity mix.

Heartland plans to paint itself as an ally of consumers, arguing that electricity costs will soar if coal plants continue to retire at a rapid clip. Officials at the conservative think tank said they would enlist state lawmakers and regulators to prevent aging plants from retiring.

Frozen out during the Obama years, Heartland has some degree of traction in the Trump administration.  Heartland’s coal push coincides with attempts by the Trump administration and industry to bolster coal and repeal environmental regulations. Peabody Energy CEO Glenn Kellow called for a moratorium on coal plant retirements last year (Climatewire, Oct. 4, 2017).

Those calls have been echoed by Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy Corp., and were reflected in a recent Energy Department proposal to subsidize coal plants. The proposal was ultimately rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

But if Heartland’s influence has increased in Washington, the weight of its arguments is on the wane in C-room suites.

Power companies have retired a third of America’s coal-generating capacity since 2010, according to M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC, a consultancy, and more are on the way.

In February alone, two major Midwestern utilities announced plans to dramatically cut back coal generation and replace the retired units with natural gas and renewables. Consumers Energy, a Michigan utility, said this week it will eliminate coal from its fuel mix by 2040. That followed an announcement by American Electric Power Co. that it intends to slash its emissions 80 percent of 2000 levels by midcentury, in part by reducing its coal use.

And in Texas, where power generators are retiring some 4 gigawatts of coal capacity this year, researchers expect wind power to overtake coal as the state’s second largest provider of electricity next year. Texas is the largest domestic market for coal used to generate electricity.

More: Group pushing climate skepticism tries to save coal plants

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