Great River Energy says it’s already doing a lot of what Obama wants

Minnesota-based generation cooperative Great River Energy said June 26 that it and its members are well on their way to meeting many of the goals set out in President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced on June 25.

Since 2006, Great River Energy’s generation portfolio has seen a reduction of CO2 emissions by 20%, as well as a reduction of NOx by 40%, mercury by 4% (at its largest coal plant), and SO2 by 56%. These reductions were possible even while producing record amounts of power in 2012 (11,125,190 megawatts).

In addition, Great River has increased the use of renewable power on its system to nearly 500 MW with increased purchases of hydroelectric and wind energy.

In his plan, Obama directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work with states to develop a plan to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants through the Clean Air Act. Great River Energy said it is committed to working through state and federal regulatory processes as they develop to ensure that electric cooperatives are not adversely affected by the new regulations but retain the affordable, reliable electricity its members have come to expect.

Great River said it has already demonstrated an ability to work with new technologies and believes that those technologies should be part of an overall plan to reduce CO2 emissions.

Great River has achieved emissions reductions and greater efficiency in part from the use of innovative DryFining technology, which upgrades low-Btu lignite coal for more efficient burning in power plants. Great River Energy said it is currently in negotiations with companies in Asia about their use of the DryFining technology in order to increase plant efficiency and reduce emissions. Its website said the cooperative is currently DryFining all of the lignite coal used at its Coal Creek Station to make it cleaner and more efficient, using waste heat from the plant itself to help dry this raw lignite.

The coal-fired, 99-MW Spiritwood Station near Jamestown, N.D., the cooperative’s newest power plant, is up to 59% efficient, helping to meet Obama’s August 2012 Executive Order calling for 40 GW of new combined heat and power plants by 2020.

Great River adds renewables to meet Minnesota mandate

Great River Energy said it is also well on its way to meeting much of the “all-of-the-above” approach to reducing emissions, increasing the use of renewable resources, and deploying energy efficiency technologies. It is on track to provide 25% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025, as mandated by the state of Minnesota.

Great River Energy said it has long been a leader in modernizing the grid, another of the President’s proposals. It is a lead partner in CapX2020, a joint initiative of 11 electric utilities, formed to upgrade and expand the electric transmission grid to increase reliability, while expanding access to thousands of megawatts of new wind resources.

Great River Energy is participating in smart grid technology research that will help improve energy efficiency and grid response in our members’ homes. Two of its member cooperatives are leading demonstration projects that provide smart meters in their homes to reduce electric use at peak demand periods, and also evaluating energy storage technologies.

“We will continue to seek improvements in our power delivery system and believe our past successes should be taken into consideration by the EPA,” Great River said. “As climate change regulations are being drafted, we also believe the economic impact of those regulations on rural Americans must be considered. In that vein, we will continue to oppose regulations that significantly increase costs to electric cooperative members.”

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit electric cooperative owned by its 28 member cooperatives. It is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota. Great River Energy owns 12 power plants which generate more than 2,800 MW, plus it purchases additional power from several wind farms and other generating facilities. Its portfolio consists of a diverse mix of baseload and peaking power plants — including coal, biomass, natural gas and oil plants. Its coal capacity includes the Coal Creek and Stanton plants.

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.