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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

US may have seen last new nuclear, coal plant: FERC's Wellinghoff

[If I had a nickel every time someone said natural gas would be cheap forever and get rid of nuclear...]


Washington (Platts)--22Apr2009
In remarks focused on the promise of renewable energy and demand-side management, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff on Wednesday suggested that there may never be another new nuclear or coal power plant built in the country.

Pointing to upwards of 1,000 GW of potential wind energy in the Midwest and West, new solar power production and storage technologies and emerging hydrokinetic power resources, Wellinghoff asserted that renewables are poised to play a substantial, gap-filling role in the US energy picture.

That, coupled with strong natural gas reserves and load-response leveling systems, could simply price coal and nuclear out of the energy market equation
for the foreseeable future, the chairman said at a Washington press briefing
sponsored by the United States Energy Association.

Asked about challenges facing construction of new nuclear and coal power
plants, Wellinghoff allowed that "we may not need any, ever." That's a "theoretical question" because "I don't see anybody building these things until costs get to a reasonable level."

He characterized the projected costs of new nuclear plants as prohibitive, citing estimates of roughly $7,000/kW.

Price tags for new coal plants are similarly daunting, he said. Coal plants also are being pressed by natural gas, which is coming on strong as a competitor for power production, the chairman said.

"Natural gas is going to be there for a while," he said, noting that production companies in recent years have discovered that "we have twice as much" gas in the US "than we previously thought." That, in combination with other factors, figures to keep natural gas relatively inexpensive "for a while," competing "on the margin with coal" for new generation load.
--Chris Newkumet, chris_newkumet@platts.com


Anonymous said...

Uh-huh...that's what we thought in the 90s...natural gas forever. Enron, California power crisis, deregulation, etc.

Sign me up for new nuclear plants, bud.

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