Alabama Power Air Emissions Drop In 2012
Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide down nearly 80 percent since 1996
Alabama Power in 2012 continued its long-term trend of reducing key air emissions at its power plants.
Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) were down 30 percent in 2012. Emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) were down 28 percent last year. Since 1996, NOx and SO2 emissions at Alabama Power plants are down by 78 percent and 76 percent, respectively. (See accompanying charts.)
Lower emissions in 2012 were the result of a combination of factors, including a reduction in coal-fired generation, an increase in the use of natural gas, plus the benefit of years of emission-control investments.
“For more than a decade, Alabama Power has met the challenge of complying with increasingly stringent environmental regulations,” said Matt Bowden, Alabama Power vice president of Environmental Affairs. “By focusing on cost-effective measures, we’ve reduced emissions significantly while continuing to meet the needs of our customers for reliable, affordable power.”
Coal-fired power plants produced 54 percent of Alabama Power’s total electricity generation in 2012, down from nearly 77 percent in 1999. Natural gas generation, in contrast, made up 18 percent of total generation in 2012, up from about 1 percent in 1999. Emission-free nuclear and hydro generation made up the remaining 28 percent of Alabama Power generation in 2012.
Last year, Alabama Power switched from using coal to natural gas at Plant Gadsden’s two generating units. While the decision was primarily an economic one, based on lower natural gas prices, it also provided environmental benefits. Alabama Power is also adding environmentally friendly energy from wind to its fuel mix. Last year, the company began receiving energy from a wind farm in Oklahoma, and by the end of this year, the company is expected to also receive energy from a wind farm in Kansas. Combined, the two power purchase agreements will provide enough energy to supply up to 115,000 homes.
Alabama Power is receiving the wind energy at a competitive price, but also receives other benefits from the purchase agreements. Under both agreements, the company has the flexibility to use generated wind energy to serve customers and retire the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) or sell the energy and RECs to others, either separately or bundled together.
Other changes are coming at Alabama Power plants that are expected to provide environmental benefits. By 2016, the company plans to use natural gas as a primary fuel source at several units currently fueled by coal at Plant Gaston, in Shelby County. The company also plans to add additional emission controls to large coal units at Gaston and at Plant Gorgas, in Walker County, over the next few years. Adjustments at other units at Plant Greene County and Plant Barry, in Mobile County, will also provide additional emission reductions.
Alabama Power has invested nearly $3B over the past decade to comply with government-mandated environmental regulations, installing highly effective controls on nearly two-thirds of its coal-fired generating capacity. Through 2016, the company plans to invest another $1B to meet the latest round of emission regulations.
Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, provides electricity to more than 1.4 million customers across the state.
SOURCE: Alabama Power