Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2019
The Energy Department is doling out $38 million to help struggling coal-fired power plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northern Alabama is pictured. Tennessee Valley Authority/Flickr
The Department of Energy today offered up $38 million to help save the nation’s dwindling number of coal-fired power plants.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va., will oversee the research and development projects hoping to improve the coal fleet’s “performance, reliability, and flexibility.”
Coal has been rapidly conceding its share of American power generation to natural gas and renewable energy sources in recent years.
Major electric utilities have argued that the sweeping coal plant retirements do not endanger the grid, but DOE has thrown itself fully behind the coal industry’s argument that its fuel is “vital” to the country’s energy security.
“Utilizing all of our energy resources to ensure the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s electricity is a top priority for the Department of Energy,” said Mark Menezes, undersecretary of energy, in a statement.
The new funding will bolster existing DOE programs such as the Transformative Power Generation Program, which is aimed at keeping coal competitive, and the Crosscutting Research Program, which develops technologies including coal gasification, advanced combustion, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
DOE also recently put out a call for engineers to design the smaller, modular coal plants of the future — the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative) initiative (E&E News PM, Dec. 7, 2018).
“Modernizing the existing coal-fired fleet is critical to our effort to allow existing coal plants to load, follow and operate more efficiently,” said DOE Office of Fossil Energy chief Steven Winberg. “This research and development will lower emissions and foster new technologies beneficial to our electric grid.”