AEP subsidiaries in Ohio cut emissions in part with coal shutdowns

Two units of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), Ohio Power and Columbus Southern Power, are making strides in reducing emissions, including through the planned shutdown of coal-fired capacity, the utilities said in an environmental compliance plan filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The plan touches on everything from renewable energy to AEP’s decision to end a high-profile carbon capture and storage pilot project.

“In 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (‘USEPA’) issued two regulations that profoundly affect AEP and AEP Ohio, our stakeholders and the communities we serve – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (‘CSAPR’) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (‘MATS’) Rule,” said Ohio Power in its April 13 filing. “MATS is designed to reduce mercury, and other hazardous air pollutant emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, and CSAPR would reduce SO2 and NOx emissions from power plants located in 33 Eastern, Midwestern and Southern states. MATS and CSAPR will necessitate accelerated retirement or retrofits of several AEP Ohio coal-fired units.”

Ohio Power and Columbus Southern Power operate collectively as AEP Ohio, so the Ohio Power filing was also made on behalf of Columbus Southern Power.

On Feb. 13, AEP Ohio officially retired the coal-fired, 450-MW Sporn Unit 5 and notified PJM that the unit would no longer be available for use. Additionally, AEP Ohio will retire about 2,100 MW of coal capacity by around June 1, 2015. Due to be retired by the end of 2012 is Conesville Unit 3 (165 MW). To be retired by June 2015 are: Kammer Units 1-3, 630 MW; Muskingum River Units 1-4, 840 MW; Beckjord Unit 6, co-owned, with 54 MW of AEP-controlled capacity; Picway Unit 5, 100 MW; and Philip Sporn Units 2 and 4, 300 MW.

AEP maps out greenhouse gas reduction plans

AEP Ohio, along with the other operating company members of AEP, plans to continue reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using a combination of market-based and technology-based CO2 mitigation options. The deployment of these options will depend on availability, risk and relative economics. The amount of GHG emission reductions required from AEP Ohio cannot be predicted with certainty in the absence of applicable state or federal legislation or regulation, the company noted.

Recently, the EPA proposed rules that will limit CO2 emissions from new power plants under the Greenhouse Gas New Performance Standards. But this proposal does not apply to any existing AEP units or to any planned AEP retrofit projects.

As part of the AEP family of companies, AEP Ohio has been actively involved in a number of organizations focused on voluntary GHG emission reductions. As a founding member of the former Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), AEP made a voluntary but legally binding commitment to cumulatively reduce or offset 48 million tonnes of GHG emissions from 2003 to 2010. Through 2010, AEP reduced or offset GHGs by a cumulative 95 million tonnes of GHG emissions — substantially exceeding the target.

Although reduced load contributed in large part to this accomplishment, AEP also focused on practical, short-term actions such as improving generating unit efficiency, replacing or retiring less efficient and higher emitting units, increasing the use of renewable power, investing in end-use energy efficiency measures and reducing emissions of SF6 (a potent GHG which is found in some electrical equipment).

AEP will get additional GHG reductions in the future through the scheduled retirement of older, less efficient generating units as necessary, balancing its fuel resources and generation portfolio, incorporating more renewable energy, operating as efficiently as practicable, increasing implementation of end-use energy efficiency programs and gradually deploying smart grid technology. These actions will allow AEP to stay on the path to continued GHG reductions, helping to achieve a new 2020 goal to reduce GHG emissions by 10% from 2010 levels.

Renewable energy a growing part of AEP portfolio

AEP Ohio has met the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets as set forth in the state’s Amended Substitute Senate Bill 221 (S.B. 221). The renewable energy and energy efficiency benchmarks have the secondary benefit of directly reducing AEP Ohio’s CO2 emissions. Additional renewable energy resources directly displace fossil-fueled generation and increasing levels of end-use energy efficiency reduce the total amount of energy (mostly fossil-fuel based) needed to serve AEP Ohio’s customers, both achieving a net CO2 benefit. AEP Ohio retains the option to expand these programs beyond current state requirements should the economics warrant.

As part of its renewable energy effort, AEP Ohio signed a 20-year agreement to purchase the entire output of the Wyandot Solar Project located near Upper Sandusky, Ohio. AEP Ohio announced that it would purchase all of the output from the planned Turning Point solar project in southeast Ohio and also signed a long-term agreement to purchase power from the Timber Road wind project in northwestern Ohio. Both the Turning Point solar and Timber Road wind projects are pending commission approval.

To meet other in-state renewable energy requirements, AEP has issued requests for proposals (RFPs) and contracts for both renewable energy resources and biodiesel fuel sources. These projects will directly reduce the amount of fossil-fuel generated energy, and thus GHG emissions.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel AEP Ohio is using to a small degree at a few of its power plants because it is recognized by the state as another source of renewable energy. AEP Ohio successfully tested the use of biodiesel for coal unit start-up and flame stabilization at the Picway plant in 2010 and has begun using it at Conesville Units 4-6 and Muskingum River Units 1-4. Since mid-2011, following permit approvals, the plants have been using biodiesel instead of fuel oil.

AEP Ohio also has been actively investing in energy efficiency (EE) measures to directly reduce energy consumption within Ohio. These EE measures will ramp up over the coming years in conjunction with the requirements of S.B. 221.

Additional benefits from energy efficiency may be achieved in the coming years with deployment of the gridSMART program. The gridSMART initiative includes smart grid technologies such as smart meters, voltage optimization equipment and smart appliances. AEP Ohio currently is conducting a gridSMART community-based project in Columbus with about 110,000 customers.

CO2 capture experiment shelved

In addition to renewable energy and end-user energy efficiency programs, AEP will continue to evaluate projects that directly reduce CO2 emissions from its fleet. An AEP pilot project at the Mountaineer coal plant in West Virginia was the first in the country to capture CO2 from a coal-based electric generating unit and inject it into a geologic storage facility. The project proved that the technology worked, and it captured more than 51,000 tonnes of CO2 between September 2009 and May 2011 and permanently stored more than 37,000 tonnes underground. The pilot project was successfully completed and removed from service in May 2011.

“Unfortunately, cost recovery issues and a lack of financial support for the 235 MW commercial scale development project placed the CCS program on hold until economically feasible,” the Ohio Power filing said about an abandoned scale-up project at Mountaineer. “AEP and AEP Ohio believe the work completed will provide substantial benefits and, depending on financial incentives and the pace of technology development, AEP Ohio could potentially install similar carbon capture technology in the future.”

On April 12, in this same commission docket, AEP Ohio also filed a report on its plant-by-plant GHG emissions.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.