Carbon rule may force HU toward more natural gas

Nebraska utilities might be forced to make expensive changes to comply with new proposed restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions because they rely heavily on coal power.

But while some utility and state officials have said the potential impact of the new rules won’t be clear until after they’ve had a chance to study the details, Hastings Utilities officials already HU will be clearly impacted by the new restrictions.

“We are just starting to sift through what the regulations might be. They haven’t been finalized yet, but as they are proposed, it would tend to influence the use of natural gas over coal,” said Steve Cogley, Hastings Ulilities customer relations coordinator.

Cogley said natural gas still has carbon emissions but they are consistently lower than the use of coal.

“This is probably an additional push toward renewable energy,” Cogley said. “It will no doubt have a greater impact on states like Nebraska that, by-and-large, rely on coal for their electrical generation. Our main energy source for electricity has been coal from Wyoming because it is very plentiful. It is a close source of that type of fuel.”

The local cost for electricity will likely be impacted. While some believe the proposed measure will lower the price of power, others aren’t buying that idea.

“I’m not sure that will be the case,” Cogley said. “One way of meeting the standards would be to run our power plants less. That would reduce the emissions that we have, but you would have to replace that power by purchasing it from other utilities in other states. You can’t purchase power as cheaply as you can generate power.”

If the electrical generation business tends to shift from coal to natural gas in the future, Cogley said, the demand for natural gas will skyrocket, as will its price.

According to Cogley, the proposed emission cuts have not been finalized, only proposed. There is also a public comment period on the proposal.

“I’m sure it will get congressional reviews,” Cogley said. “This may not be the final form of things. We will just see where it ends up and have to make decisions based on that.

“There is a bit of a window here to get into compliance. The difficult thing is that there really is no technology on the market. We can’t go out and buy something that would reduce the emissions of various types of power plants. It just isn’t out there. You can’t buy it.”

The plan calls for Nebraska to reduce its carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2030. That’s less than the 30 percent reduction nationwide the Obama administration is seeking, but it’s still ambitious.

To read more, see Tuesday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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