Federal environmental mandates are forcing Alabama Power to stop using coal at Plant Gadsden.
The facility ceased burning coal on Wednesday, March 11 and will use only natural gas. By restricting the plant to natural gas, federal mandates are limiting the company’s ability to use more than one type of fuel at the facility.
Fuel diversity – the ability to use a variety of fuels, including natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro and other renewables – provides flexibility for Alabama Power to select the most cost-effective choices for customers amid changing market conditions, volatile fuel prices, potential fuel shortages and other factors.
Increasing federal regulations are imposing new restrictions on fuel options.
“Federal environmental mandates are forcing us to change how we generate electricity for our customers,” said Matt Bowden, Alabama Power’s vice president for Environmental Affairs. “Retrofitting Plant Gadsden to meet new environmental standards on coal was not a cost-effective option for our customers.”
Since it first began operating in 1913, Plant Gadsden has played a vital role in the Gadsden community, on both the economic and civic fronts. The plant employs 52 people, with an annual payroll of $4 million, and paid $80,000 in taxes to Etowah County in 2014. Last year, plant employees performed more than 350 hours of volunteer service in the Gadsden area through the Alabama Power Service Organization.
The bulk of power produced by Plant Gadsden goes directly to serve residential customers. Since 1994, Plant Gadsden has also supplied steam – crucial to tiremaking– to the nearby Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which is Plant Gadsden’s major industrial customer.
“It is our desire to safely provide affordable, reliable energy to our customers,” said Steven Winston, plant manager. “We are grateful to serve the City of Gadsden, whether it’s supplying steam to Goodyear-Gadsden or supplying electricity to help power our neighborhoods and businesses.”
The shift to using only natural gas at Plant Gadsden will not result in job cuts at the facility.
“We are committed to remaining an important part of the Gadsden community for many years to come,” said Winston.
Across Alabama Power’s generating fleet, however, as many as 200 positions are expected to be eliminated over the coming months because of changes related to environmental regulations. The company does not expect to lay off any employees. Instead, positions will be reduced through attrition and transfers.
During the past decade, Alabama Power has spent about $3 billion to meet federal environmental mandates. The company is in the process of spending another $1 billion to comply with new federal environmental regulations tied to air emissions. Further spending could be required to meet future federal environmental regulations.
The elimination of coal from power plants was backed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which determined in 2009 that “greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.” According to a 2012 EPA study, power plants represent 32 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), provides reliable, affordable electricity to more than 1.4 million customers at a total retail price that has been below the national average for decades. To learn more about the company, including its environmental efforts, please visit www.alabamapower.com.