U.S. wants input on coal plants 'of the future'

The government issued a request for information on small-scale coal plants that could be less polluting.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 9, 2018 at 6:42 AM
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May 9 (UPI) -- Stakeholders have been called to submit information that could support the design and operation of small-scale coal "plants of the future," the U.S. government said.

The objective of the request is to solicit stakeholder input on ways to develop small-scale plants that would use coal, but with lower emissions.

"These plants of the future are envisioned to be modular for lower cost, designed using advanced methods, small scale, highly efficient -- greater than 40 percent efficiency -- and able to load follow to meet the demands of an evolving electricity grid," the Department of Energy announced.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration in its latest forecast anticipates a 29 percent share for coal in total electricity generation in both 2018 and 2019, down from the 30 percent last year. The share for natural gas, meanwhile, grows from 32 percent last year to 34 percent through 2019. For renewables, save hydroelectricity, the share was slightly less than 10 percent last year and grows to nearly 11 percent next year.

For production, coal declines 3 percent and exports decline by 9 percent this year.

"The production decrease is largely attributable to a forecast decline of 4 percent in domestic coal consumption in 2018, with most of the decline expected to be in the electric power sector," the EIA's latest forecast read.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vocal supporter of the fossil fuels industry. In his inaugural State of the Union address, the president declared an end to the "war on clean coal."

A federal report found total U.S. emissions increased 2.4 percent between 1990 and 2016, but declined 1.9 percent between 2015 and 2016. The government attributed the decline in large part to the decrease in emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, which came from substituting coal for natural gas or other non-fossil forms of energy at the nation's power plants.

Coal accounts for about 30 percent of total energy used globally and about 40 percent of total electricity generation. The International Energy Agency said coal consumption declined by about 2 percent from 2016 and down 4.2 percent over the last two years or so. While use is in the midst of a decade-long period of decline, demand by 2022 will be about the same as the current five-year average.

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