The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release more stringent rules regarding carbon emissions for energy utilities next month. Almost half the energy produced in Iowa comes from coal-fired plants and that has energy companies in the state looking to reduce their dependence on coal.
MidAmerican vice president, Jonathan Weisgall says four of his company’s coal plants in Iowa will be retired in the foreseeable future, and one will be converted to natural gas. “The EPA regulations are simply creating higher costs for coal, creating a certain level of uncertainty, and as we’ve looked at the economics, there are some coal plants that can continue to operate with appropriate pollution-control devices. But for some of the older ones and smaller ones, it is simply not efficient,” Weisgall says.
Forty-five-percent of electricity generated by MidAmerican now comes from coal and another 30 percent is windpower. Weisgall says that will change as they move forward. “We’ll actually be ramping up more natural gas facilities at least for that baseload quality,” Weisgall says.
He says the renewable energy like wind won’t ever replace all the other sources. “There’s a need here to integrate variable resources, like wind, with baseload resources. So, we’re going to continue to have a mixed portfolio,” Weisgall says. He says federal production credits, EPA regulations and state renewable fuel standards have been major reasons for utilities to invest in alternative energies.
Weisgall says he hopes the new EPA rules include some flexibility for utilities that get a lot of their energy from renewable fuels.