On Aug 26, 2015, the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) held their second annual 2015 Gulf Coast Energy Forum in Tampa, Florida, to discuss the energy industry in the gulf region. The forum brought together leaders from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida to discuss regulatory issues, fuel sources, and future operating needs of the industry.
There were panel discussions that began with a discussion of energy sources; coal, oil, methane, and solar, and the importance of having access to a diversity of fuel sources to minimize fuel costs. But the primary focus of industry leaders was to provide reliable energy to their customers, both industry and residential. However, many speakers noted that one of the biggest impediments to reliability is going to be the new EPA “Clean Power Plan” regulations, which will force utilities to close most coal generating facilities to meet much lower emission standards.
On Aug 3, 2015, the White House announced their new emission standards as part of their Clean Power Plan regulations, that will require electrical utilities to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This will be a major problem for utilities, since the EPA’s own modeling projections indicate that more than 90 percent of Florida’s coal-fired generation plants would be forced to prematurely close.
Many forum panelists were doubtful the CO2 limits could be met. Nonetheless, despite the onerous regulatory burden of the carbon dioxide regulations upon the generators, the White House and EPA also proposed new regulation to limit methane emissions (natural gas) from fracking operations which produce clean burning methane gas.
The most interesting revelations came from:
Tampa Electric, President Gordon Gillette, who stated that when Tampa Electric needed more water than their current supplier could provide, they created an innovative deal with the City of Lakeland, Fla., to get 5 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater from the City of Lakeland, for their Polk County Power Station.
Tampa Electric’s current fuel diversity is coal (60 percent) and natural gas (40 percent).
Seminole Electric, CEO Lisa Johnson opined that once coal plants in Florida are subject to the EPA Carbon Dioxide regulation, most will be closed which would leave natural gas as the main fuel for generation, but Florida does not have enough capacity in the current pipeline system (natural gas or oil) to make up the energy lost from closed coal plants.
Seminole Electric is a non-profit, that provides power to nine electric cooperatives in Florida, that cover 42 counties.
National Black Chamber of Commerce, President Harry C. Alford, a former army company commander, and active board member of the US Chamber of Commerce, Government Oversight Committee, spoke as a champion for the poor saying the new EPA regulations will raise the electric bills of the poor. Alford stated that fossil fuels were good because they are low cost fuels.
In 2008, Alford stated he voted for Obama, but he has been disappointed in Obama’s energy policies because they are regressive and make it tougher for small business to survive. Alford is now a critic of this administration, and as such, he stated that from time to time, several people from the White House have contacted him to try and get him to change his opinion of this administration’s policies. However, based upon Alford’s comments at the forum, the administration’s pleas fell on deaf ears.
All the leaders who discussed costs agreed that due to regulatory pressure from this administration, consumers of electric energy will pay more for their electric service. There was general agreement that fuel diversity (the ability to use either coal, oil, gas or solar) was an important component to providing low cost reliable electric service, and that the EPA CPP regulations were onerous. Therefore, it is no surprise that on Aug 4, 2015, twelve states sued to stop the EPA from implanting their Clean Power Plan regulations.