WASHINGTON — Technology promoted by the Obama administration to meet clean coal standards could raise the price of electricity for consumers as much as 40 to 80 percent, a top Energy Department official told a congressional panel this week.
Dr. S. Julio Friedmann, deputy assistant secretary for clean coal, acknowledged that the cost of using carbon capture and storage technology for coal plants that produce electricity would be substantial, prompting criticism from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner said that a large coal plant in his eastern Plains district, Xcel Energy’s Pawnee plant, was likely to remain in operation.
However, Gardner warned that other coal plants across the nation are likely to chafe at the new program.
“It’s gonna cost more, and taking steps to comply will take awhile,” Gardner said in an interview this week.
The Obama administration has targeted coal plants in an effort to limit the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, a move derided by Republicans as a war on the coal mining industry.
Friedmann insisted to the panel that Obama’s so-called “all-of-the-above strategy” includes the “clean and efficient use of coal.”
But supporters of the coal industry say the administration’s plans will only increase costs for consumers.
Scott Klara, Energy Department principal deputy assistant for fossil energy, said “we are headed toward a reduction in costs” with second-generation technology.
Obama administration officials are banking on a second wave of carbon capture technology to decrease costs, but say such equipment is not expected to be available on the market until at least 2020.
The economic effects of using the carbon-capture technology have already been felt in Colorado.
Mark Stutz, spokesman for Xcel Energy, the state’s largest coal producer, said it began using the technology after then-Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act in April 2010.
Stutz said it has cost the company $1 billion and prompted a slight uptick in electricity bills for consumers.
“We have seen some increases in customer’s bills, but we’re trying to minimize that,” Stutz told the Observer.