June 22, 2021 Read More →

Carbon capture projects burn through tax dollars

Utility Dive: 

The federal government’s support for carbon capture projects at coal-fired power plants may be politically necessary (see Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.), but it is environmentally and fiscally misguided. The potential for Department of Energy (DOE) funding and the lure of federal tax credits are pushing plant owners and avaricious developers to promote the conversion of aging coal plants into the equivalent of carbon dioxide factories instead of moving toward cleaner, cheaper alternatives.

The carbon capture retrofit proposal touted by Enchant Energy for the coal-fired San Juan Generation Station in New Mexico is the most egregious example of this. The company, which entered the scene as Acme Equities under the direction of a New York hedge fund operator, promised it would round up private investors to fund a $1.5 billion effort to capture as much as 90% of the CO2 emitted at the power plant.

The effort, unveiled with great fanfare in 2019, has languished since. The company apparently has been unable to nail down any significant outside funding for its plan. Its to-do list for 2020 included closing on financing for the project as early as July. More than a year later, that item remains unfinished. The company has tried to shift blame for its glaring failure onto the COVID-19 pandemic, but a much more likely explanation is simply lack of investor interest.

While Enchant could not entice investors to back the risky coal plant retrofit project, money poured into the renewable energy sector in 2020, with a record 36 GW of new solar and wind capacity installed across the country. According to Jigar Shah, currently head of the Loan Programs Office at DOE, U.S. investments in wind and solar energy totaled $55 billion last year.

[Dennis Wamsted, David Schlissel]

More: Coal-fired carbon capture projects are a waste of tax dollars

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