Friday, April 24, 2015

Coal Faces a Day of Reckoning in New Mexico

Decision over the future of the San Juan coal plant could reverberate through the entire coal industry and could also steer debate over renewables.

In a protest organized by New Energy Economy (NEE), activists gather to push for New Mexico's transition to a clean energy economy. NEE has been the leading force behind the effort to force utility PNM to shutter its massive San Juan coal plant and replace it with renewable power. The case is now in the hands of state regulators, and their decision is expected to have national implications. (Credit: New Energy Economy) Click to Enlarge.
As a bitterly fought case over the future of New Mexico's largest coal-fired power plant nears a climax, the outcome has the potential to reverberate through the faltering U.S. coal industry.  It could also steer the debate over how soon and at what cost renewables are embraced as the country's energy future.

That landmark moment could come any day, when New Mexico regulators decide whether to accept a utility's controversial plan to close only two of its four coal-fired units, replacing them mainly with natural gas and nuclear energy.  The Public Regulation Commission's regulatory panel could deny the request, potentially forcing the plant to shut down and opening the door for renewable replacement power.

San Juan is one of the largest––and most polluting––power plants among the hundreds facing retirement amid the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's crackdown on coal pollution and the boom in natural gas production that has undercut coal prices.  The case has drawn attention nationwide as it could influence the fate of middle-aged and younger plants and possibly accelerate the power industry's pivot to climate-friendly energy sources.

The San Juan decision "carries with it potentially precedent-setting and national implications for how to deal with current haze- and future carbon regulations," said Robb Hirsch, executive director of New Mexico Independent Power Producers, a trade group of workers in renewable energy, natural gas or transmission lines.

Read more at Coal Faces a Day of Reckoning in New Mexico

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