AE's Coal Conundrum: Energy planners and the fight over Fayette

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February 20, 2019 - 6:29pm

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This article is covering a number of different perspectives on the Austin City Council’s upcoming decision on if/when to close, sell, or maintain ownership of the Fayette Power plant in La Grange, Texas. The problems with the coal plant include its pollutants: being “responsible for 71% of the utility's [Austin Energy’s] carbon dioxide emissions, an estimated 68% of its nitrous oxide emissions, and virtually 100% of its mercury and sulfur dioxide output.” However, shutting down the coal plant will require replacing this plant with an/other energy resource(s) to reach demand. There are numerous options for doing so. The city hired Pace Consulting to create a number of different models and weigh the various costs and benefits. A few environmentalists were disappointed with where they stopped as their most aggressive model and produced their own. This plan charted a path to shut down the Fayette plant by the end of 2014 (6 years earlier than the earliest recommendation made by Pace, 2020). Advocates for keeping the plant in production remark that coal, at the time, was the cheapest energy source available that was capable of meeting base load of energy demand. Renewable advocates admit that replacing coal with renewables will require steep investments in capital up-front. However, due to no additional fuel costs, it will end up pay out in the long run. Not to mention that the health costs of the plant comes to $200-$300 million a year for Texas residents. It was also predicted that the foreseeable future (under the Obama Administration) would include tighter regulation on carbon emissions, thus spending even more money to maintain carbon emissions instead of investing that money in renewables.

Source

Ankrum, Nora, Fri., Nov. 20, and 2009. n.d. “AE’s Coal Conundrum.” Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2009-11-20/919207/.

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Nora Ankrum, "AE's Coal Conundrum: Energy planners and the fight over Fayette", contributed by James Adams, Disaster STS Network, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 20 February 2019, accessed 17 May 2022. https://disaster-sts-network.org/content/aes-coal-conundrum-energy-planners-and-fight-over-fayette