Chesapeake: The Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Newsletter
 
Chapter Home
 
Chesapeake
Newsletter Home
Past Issues
 

How Are We Going to Keep the Lights On?
click for print view

by Amanda Ruthven | 2011

By Amanda Ruthven—In considering the closure of the R. Paul Smith, C. P. Crane, and Herbert A Wagner coal plants in Maryland, it is important to understand how these coal plants currently figure in Maryland’s energy portfolio and viable alternatives to these sources.

How Are We Going to Keep the Lights On?

 

By Amanda Ruthven—In considering the closure of the R. Paul Smith, C. P. Crane, and Herbert A Wagner coal plants in Maryland, it is important to understand how these coal plants currently figure in Maryland’s energy portfolio and viable alternatives to these sources.

The key to understanding if we can eliminate these sources is in understanding the state’s peak power demand in megawatts (MW) as well as its overall energy needs in megawatt hours (MWh). In other words, what percent of the power do these plants provide on the hottest summer day, and can energy conservation and new sources fill that gap?

 

Maryland’s Peak Power

The Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, states that Maryland’s peak power capability is 12,482 MW (industry Net Summer Capacity). The capacity for the three plants are summarized in the table below:

 

 

R Paul Smith

C. P. Crane

H. Wagner

Capacity

110 MW

399 MW

495 MW

 

This means that the plants have a combined capacity of 1,004 MW, or 8% of the state’s peak power needs. At the same time, the total electrical energy generation from these plants has been decreasing over the past three years. Some of this is due to falling demand; however, this should also be accredited to gains in energy efficiency.

 

Gains  in Power Efficiency

In 2008, Maryland enacted its energy and environment saving law, EmPower. EmPower requires all Maryland electric utilities to offer programs to reduce per-capita electrical peak power demand (in MW) by 5% by 2011 and by 15% by 2015, as compared to 2007 levels. To date, the utility companies in aggregate are meeting their 2011 requirements in reducing peak demands. If utilities meet 2015 targets, these reductions will exceed the power capacity of the  three dirty coal-fired plants.

 

Maryland’s Annual Energy Demand

The table below shows energy production in MWh for 2007 through 2009 (the most recent year for which we have data) and as percent of recent state load, 62,589,143 MWh.

Note that the energy produced by these plants decreased by 36% between 2007 and 2009.

 

Gains in Energy Efficiency

As well as reducing peak demand, EmPower programs are to also reduce electrical energy load (in MWh) by 5% by 2011 and 10% by 2015. Thus these programs should reduce peak power demands. To date, the utility companies in aggregate are not quite meeting their 2011 requirements in reducing total load. (Maryland PIRG, “Utility Work Ahead”, 2010) If utilities meet 2015 targets, these reductions will exceed the energy generation history of the three dirty coal-fired plants.

A recent study showed that the US economy could reduce its non-transportation energy demand by 23% by 2020 through business-wise investments even without incentives (such as those provided by EmPower MD). (McKinsey and Company, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the US Economy”, June 2009) [See Rich Reis’s article, below, to learn how the Maryland Chapter reduced its lighting energy use by 74%.]

 

New Sources: Renewables

Maryland is making strides in increasing its in-state renewable power generation.  According to Director Malcolm Woolf of the Maryland Energy Administration, the following are notable successes.  The Criterion and Synergics wind projects in Garrett County are on line and cumulatively will generate 120MW or enough to retire the R Paul Smith plant.

In addition, through Project Sunburst, Maryland currently has about 20 MW of solar energy.  Partnering with the University of Maryland under the Clean Horizons initiative to negotiate power purchase agreements has resulted in a 17 MW thin film solar array in Frederick and a 55 MW wind farm just across the border in West Virginia.

Furthermore, shallow (0 to 35 meters) offshore wind power has the potential to exceed Maryland’s current electricity peak load and meet about two thirds of its energy demands (Abell Foundation, “Maryland’s Offshore Wind Power Potential”, 2010). If passed, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act would enable the development of 400 to 600 MW of offshore wind capacity.  This would be equivalent to replacing the Crane power plant, whose capacity is 400 MW, or replacing the Wagner plant whose capacity is 495 MW.  Development of such a project would generate enough renewable energy to account for 10-15% of Maryland’s 2022 renewable energy goals.

 

Goal

With the mandated efficiency and energy conservation of EmPower Maryland and alternative energy sources, the utilities and the state will be able to close its oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient coal plants, while maintaining adequate peak power reserves for hot summer days and energy supplies throughout the year.

It is not enough to simply enable efficiency and add wind and solar projects; we must also plan to phase out each of these coal plants over the next several years.        n

 

Amanda Ruthven serves on the Chapter excom and on the Energy Committee.

> 2011 Table of Contents

   
   

Up to Top