By John Murawski, The News & Observer
Progress Energy plans to mothball 11 coal-burning power plants in the state, a move that signals the beginning of the end of the era of cheap coal that has defined the state’s electricity production for decades.
The Raleigh electric utility is moving to shutter older coal-burning plants because it’s becoming too expensive to modify the older plants to comply with ever-tougher environmental regulations. The aging plants, including one in Chatham County, produce 12.5 percent of the power company’s electricity but lack pollution-trapping “scrubber” technology.
Progress officials anticipate a slew of new federal restrictions on air pollution that crosses state lines, on mercury emissions and on waste pits that store coal ash. For the power company it came down to simple math. The cost of replacing those plants with new ones mostly fueled by natural gas would be about $1.5 billion. The cost of retrofitting all 11 of the old coal-burning plants to cut emissions is at least $2 billion and rising.