Release Date: December 7, 2000
|DOE Tackles Electricity Reliability Problem with
Power Plant Improvement Initiative
Agency Asks for Comments on Planned Solicitation
PITTSBURGH, PA - The Department of Energy is asking the power industry and others to comment on a new fast-track program to demonstrate advanced power plant technologies that could help prevent recurrences of the brownouts and blackouts that have plagued major sections of the nation's electricity grid the past two years.
The department today posted a draft of a "Power Plant Improvement Initiative" solicitation it plans to issue early next year. The solicitation will offer up to $95 million for advanced coal-based technologies that can improve the reliability of the U.S. electric power system.
Eligible projects could include technologies that boost the efficiencies of currently-operating power plants – generating more megawatts from the same amount of fuel – or that lower emissions and allow plants to stay in operation in compliance with environmental standards. The program is also open to technologies that improve the economics and overall performance of coal-fired power plants.
Private sector proposers must at least match the government funding. Proposed technologies must be mature enough to be commercialized within the next few years, and the cost-shared demonstrations must be large enough to show that the technology is viable for commercial use.
The department is asking technology developers and others to comment on the draft solicitation by January 5, 2001. Congress directed the department to issue the final solicitation by early February 2001. The first project selections could be made by later September or early October 2001.
To obtain industry's views on the draft solicitation first-hand, the department's National Energy Technology Laboratory, the field office managing the program, will hold a public "comment-and-response session" on December 15, at the Laboratory's Pittsburgh site. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Laboratory's conference center at 626 Cochrans Mill Road in the South Park Township.
The Power Plant Improvement Initiative is an outgrowth of Congressional direction provided in the FY2001 appropriations to the Energy Department's fossil energy research program. Funding was added for the program following increasing concerns over the adequacy of the nation's power supplies. Several parts of the United States, including the West Coast and parts of the Northeast, has experienced rolling blackouts and brownouts in the past two years caused in large part by sharp rises in demand for electricity and lagging construction of new power plants.
While most new power plants currently being built or planned will use natural gas, coal will continue to supply more than 50 percent of the nation's electric power needs for well into the future. There are also increasing concerns that even the rapid expansion of natural gas-fired generating capacity in the next few years may not be adequate to prevent reliability problems or escalating electricity prices, especially if power demand continues to grow.
Since today's coal plants extract only 33 to 35 percent of the useable energy value of the fuel, there may be considerable opportunity to boost the nation's power supply by increasing the output of these existing plants through technological improvements.
Also, reducing environmental impacts associated with air pollutants, carbon dioxide, water usage, and solid waste generation could keep bring many older plants in compliance with more stringent environmental standards and prolong their useful life.
Technologies proposed in the new program must also advance the performance or cost-competitiveness of coal-based capacity well beyond today's power plants or those that have been demonstrated to date.
Those interested in the upcoming solicitation can obtain the draft version from the National Energy Technology Laboratory web site at: http://www.netl.doe.gov/business/solicitations.
|Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646|