Citing worries about soaring costs and expanding environmental regulations, NV Energy shelved plans today for a coal-fired power plant in eastern Nevada until technologies for capturing and storing greenhouse gas emissions are commercially feasible.
The proposed 1,500-megawatt Ely Energy Center has been under fire from environmentalists, who criticized the project's expected annual emissions of 12.6 million tons of greenhouse gases. More than 30 advocacy groups have formed the Nevada Clean Energy Campaign to oppose the Ely Center and two other proposed Nevada coal plants.
The estimated costs of the Ely facility had ballooned since the project was first proposed -- from $3.2 billion to upward of $5 billion, NV Energy spokesman Adam Grant said. Another major concern was the possibility of federal climate change legislation that could tax carbon emissions, Grant said.
"They saw global warming legislation coming down the pipeline," Sierra Club regional representative Lydia Ball said. "They realized that there were some uncertainties there."
NV Energy said it would revive the plan when carbon capture and storage technologies become commercially feasible, which the company said is unlikely before the end of the next decade.
Rather than pursue permits for the Ely facility, the company said it would seek permits to ramp up the construction of a 250-mile transmission line that would boost renewable energy transport between northern and southern Nevada.
"We firmly believe the plentiful sources of renewable energy -- primarily solar, geothermal and wind -- that either already exist or most certainly can be developed within our state make it imperative that we press forward on an expedited basis with transmission facilities so that Nevada and its citizens can benefit from these resources as soon as possible," NV Energy President and CEO Michael Yackira said in a statement.
Ball hailed the move as a victory for the environment and said she hoped the two other proposed Nevada power plants would similarly reconsider their proposals.
"I think NV Energy has realized that the future of meeting energy demand in the state is really in renewables and energy efficiency," she said.