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Progress Energy announces plan to move away from coal

Posted December 1, 2009

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Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) said Tuesday it will shut down three more coal-fired power plants by 2017 and will look to build more natural gas-fired plants in the future.

The plants to be closed are not equipped with “scrubbers” that remove pollutants. Some plants to be closed are more than 50 years old. Progress Energy officials said it would be prohibitively expensive to add the high-tech gear to the plants.

The facilities affected are near Wilmington, Moncure and Lumberton, affecting a total of eight units, according to a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Coupled with the recent decision to close a similar plant near Goldsboro, Progress Energy said it would reduce its coal-fired production capability by 1,500 megawatts, or nearly 30 percent.

The Utilities Commission has already approved construction of a $900 million gas-fired plant at the Goldsboro site.

“This is a significant commitment to clean air in our state and a major down-payment on our company’s carbon-reduction strategy,” Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Progress Energy, said in a statement.

“Within seven years, we expect to retire nearly one-third of our coal fleet in North Carolina. We are aggressively pursuing a balanced solution for meeting future energy needs, including clean technologies and energy efficiency, while continuing to ensure that electricity remains available and reliable.”

The three units at the Wilmington site will be shut down by 2014, and Progress Energy plans to seek approval from state regulators to build a 600-megawatt gas-fired plant at the site.

The five units in Moncure and Lumberton will be shut down between 2013 and 2017. Officials said they might convert the sites to wood waste or other renewable sources of fuel, but they also are evaluating the sites for possible gas-fired plants.

Progress Energy will continue to operate three coal-fired plants in North Carolina after 2017.

The Raleigh-based utility has invested more than $2 billion to install state-of-the-art emission controls at the Roxboro Plant and Mayo Plant, both in Person County, and the Asheville Plant in Buncombe County. Officials said emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other pollutants have been reduced significantly at those sites.

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  • james27613 Dec 2, 2009

    I agree, 'reapply' for your job at the same company is foolish.

    They RIF you and they they beg you to reapply for the same job
    and only get turned down when they hire a friend or family member. But wait, they need your skills, so they offer you a lesser position for less money.

  • the_other_truth Dec 2, 2009

    More displaced employees to add to the unemployment lines. Not saying that these plants aren't old and need to be replaced, but a lot of the present employees are well qualified to work at the new gas-fired sites being built. However, the displaced employees of the coal plants will have to "reapply", be interviewed and hired just as if they are new to the company. Some of these employees have been with the company 25+ years. Is this fair? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

  • cad_guru Dec 1, 2009

    One drawback for closing these plants is that 230+ people will have to reapply for other positions. If those positions even exist.

  • james27613 Dec 1, 2009

    Take a look at Thorium fueled reactors.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_by_country

    I also like Nuclear power plants, US generates about 20%
    of electricity by nuclear plants.

    The waste from the spent fuel will be around for a very
    long time.

    Many other countries use nuclear power.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_by_country

  • El Jefe Dec 1, 2009

    I agree with the direction Progress Energy is taking. We need quickly built gas plants to provide for our lost electrical generation capacity and to reduce air emissions. The advances in gas drilling technology has advanced to the point at which we're able to take advantage of gas deposits that were previously unreachable. There were also newly discovered gas deposits in the US that would provide us a stable source of natural gas that will last us the next twenty years while new nukes are developed and built. The future price of natural gas is projected to be far below what the price of NG is now. As far as lost jobs are concerned, the new plants need about the same number of personnel as the old coal plants do. There should be no real observable change in the number of employed between now and the future.

  • Timetogo Dec 1, 2009

    But wasn't using more coal one of Obama's platforms? What happened?

  • THE ETERNAL Dec 1, 2009

    It is great to see Progress Energy and Duke Power acting responsibly. Those two companies will get my business.Coal is dirty unhealthy stuff. I know, because of breathing the smoke, I had a stroke and many other health problems.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 1, 2009

    Coal is not cheaper than solar, wind or any other energy.

    Factor in the massive cleanup costs (e.g. mercury) costs of the many facets of coal pollution and make a fair comparison.

    Anyone loosing a job can move with the industry direction into alternative energy.

  • Made In USA Dec 1, 2009

    Those scrubbers really do work. I've spent many days bass fishing on Lake Julian in Asheville, where Progress Energy's new smokestacks are now installed. Before they were installed, you would see a fine layer of black soot atop the docked sailboats all the time. Now though, that filthy, black film has gone away and is no longer present.

    The mercury levels in the fish at Lake Julian will surely decline in the coming years, and possibly will become a great benefit to the fish population. I've seen the fish in this clear lake with my underwater camera, and it is full of shad, black croppie, catfish, bluegill, and bass...in order of the most populas to least.

    I commend Progress Energy for the help with cleaning up the enviroment.

  • todmax Dec 1, 2009

    No reason we can't keep mining coal and export it to developing nations to keep our miners employed. I won't enter the debate on whether or not global warming is real, but I appreciate the reduction in unscrubbed coal combustion from a health based standpoint. Keep in mind that the drivers for reducing the arsenic and mercury levels are health risk based, not greenhouse gas related. Reducing coal generated emissions by 30% will help improve the breathing environments for many North Carolinians and better health leads to lower insurance rates. Also will help reduce acid deposition that affects forestry and fishing industries. Good job Progress, even though these decisions are all financially motivated.

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