Quitting Coal Cuts Carbon, But Costs Customers
April 22, 2013

Photo courtesy National Park Serivce.
Navajo Generating Station.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Los Angeles plans to go coal free by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions. The city currently gets 40 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants in Arizona and Utah. So while great for Earth Day, quitting coal will have ripple effects on the region, not to mention ratepayers.

While L.A. is making the leap to cut the most carbon-intensive fuel used to generate electricity, the rest of the world is slow to give up its coal. The International Energy Agency reports that global demand for coal far outpaces non-carbon energy fuels.

"When you look at other cities globally that are as big or bigger than Los Angeles particularly in the developing world in China, in Vietnam, in India they’re building coal-fired power plants left and right," said Robert Bryce author of "Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future."

Why? Because it’s cheap and it’s abundant.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the plan to reduce L.A.’s dependence on coal and use more natural gas, solar and wind will cost more than $600 million. The price of natural gas is volatile.

In Arizona the major power supplier Salt River Project plans to reduce its dependence on coal over the next decade from 53 percent to 42 percent. Tom Cooper directs resource planning and development for Salt River Project.

"I mean moving toward a sustainable energy future in the long run is an important concept for everyone but I think we have to be careful not to get ahead of the technology and fundamental economics of the question," Cooper said.

Currently Los Angeles is selling its share of the Navajo Generating Station, where it gets much of its coal-fired power. That sale is another challenge for the power plant. But Cooper says putting millions of dollars into the Navajo Generating Station to meet proposed EPA standards is still more cost-effective than replacing it with natural gas.

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