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Black & Veatch to exit coal plant engineering and construction business

November 02, 2020

Power Magazine:

Black & Veatch is ending the company’s participation in coal-based power market design and construction, saying it will allow the company to focus on clean energy technologies. The engineering and construction giant’s announcement Oct. 29 comes just more than a month after another major energy company, General Electric, said it would exit the new-build coal power market.

“We are an employee-owned company, and we do not make decisions based on what the market wants to hear, or how the market will react,” said Mario Azar, president of Black & Veatch’s power business, in an interview Thursday with POWER. “We make decisions based on the values of our company. We’ve been around for more than 100 years, and we want to be around for another 100 years or more. That’s how we make decisions as the executive committee of Black & Veatch,” he said. “It’s really centered around our values and our future. It was us, telling ourselves, did we really want to be part of that [coal] legacy anymore?”

Overland Park, Kansas-based Black & Veatch in a news release said it recognizes “the global power industry is in a state of transformation and needs to accelerate the path to net zero as many companies, communities and stakeholders forge ahead with commitments to lower carbon emissions.” The company said it “will fulfill current project commitments to completion,” but going forward its efforts “will focus on supporting clients through their transition to a balanced energy portfolio with cleaner energy sources and towards achieving their decarbonization and sustainability goals.”

Black & Veatch, founded in 1915, is a global leader in the engineering and construction industry, and had revenues of $3.7 billion in 2019. The company over the past several years has increased its participation in renewable energy and energy storage technologies, and in Thursday’s announcement said it has supported “deployment of hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel and advanced technologies for carbon capture.” The company also has invested in modernizing a power grid that increasingly must accommodate intermittent renewable energy and different baseload sources of generation.

“There’s going to be a point when you have to make some of these difficult decisions,” Azar said. “We have been involved in building power plants in Asia, some of which we’re in the process of finishing, and as we near completion—particularly in Asia—there’s been a new wave of projects we’ve been invited to participate in. Looking at the future, looking at our sustainable commitment as a company, looking at the economics today that make renewable energy affordable, and certainly energy that is far, far lower in emissions than coal … we asked ourselves, ‘Do we really want to build another coal plant that is going to pollute the air for a very long time to come?’ We decided we don’t. It’s time to recognize that this is just the right thing to do.”

He continued: “There is a financial implication to this decision. We are leaving projects that we can participate in behind, and there is a [financial risk] to it, but we believe it is a very short-term implication compared to a longer-term vision. It’s really about the future, a cleaner and very robust energy alternative to coal.”

[Darrell Proctor]

More: Black & Veatch: no more coal construction

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