Search Santee Cooper

Santee Cooper Blog

Showing posts by author Jay Hudson  Show all posts >

Lowering carbon emissions: a proposal


July 19, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

Santee Cooper’s Cross Generating in Berkeley County is the state-owned utility’s largest power plant and an important source of electricity for its customers and those served by electric cooperatives.

The administration’s regulatory reform agenda  includes a rework of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s proposal to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at existing coal-fired power plants. The rule is currently being revised and will be published in the Federal Register in the coming months. 

One item that will likely be included is lowering CO2 emissions at existing plants by making them more efficient. The process is simple. The creation of CO2 is the result of burning fuel. Carbon-based coal burned in the presence of excess oxygen creates carbon dioxide. If the same amount of power can be produced while burning less fuel, less CO2 will be produced. 

The issue in the past has been when efficiency projects are proposed, they usually trigger what the Clean Air Act terms “New Source Review” or NSR. This is a lengthy state and federal permitting process where, in order to make a coal-fired unit more... Continue Reading >>

EPA reconsiders rules


May 17, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship
Just last month, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to reconsider the Effluent Limitations Guidelines Rule for Steam Electric Generators.

This rule, which was made final in 2015 and was to take effect after 2019, would lower the water discharge limits primarily for coal-fired power stations. This reconsideration was part of the new administration’s regulatory reform agenda, which I discussed in an April 5 blog .

There is little question that these guidelines need updating. But there is considerable industry opinion that this rule perhaps went overboard in requiring very restrictive limits for some waste streams that may not even be achievable at this time – even with the best available technology.  As a further example, power effluent limits were set at less than one-tenth of the metal limits of hazardous waste incinerators.

For example, metal limits were set such that the only way to achieve them was to use some... Continue Reading >>

Climate rules on hold?


April 05, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

The Winyah Generating Station near Georgetown, S.C. has a generating capability of 1,130 megawatts and is an important part of Santee Cooper’s generation mix.

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that begins to process of dismantling the Obama administration’s climate policies.

The centerpiece of the Obama climate legacy is clearly the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.  The executive order directs EPA to immediately review the CPP, a regulation promulgated pursuant to section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  Following the issuance of the executive order, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a Federal Register notice announcing that EPA is reviewing the CPP per the order and to quote “if appropriate, will initiate proceedings to suspend, revise or rescind the Clean Power Plan.”  

There were many problems with the CPP.  It was a state by state plan.  Each state had a starting point then a complexly derived carbon-dioxide (C02) reduction target to meet in... Continue Reading >>

Regulatory reform is a good thing


February 22, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

The Federal Register is the official journal of the U.S. government that contains government agency rules, proposed rules and notices, including those that may affect the electric utility industry.

The new Trump administration has generated a large volume of dialog over issues ranging from immigration to health care.  We see voices on these issues every night, both for and against changes to existing policies.

One thing we should be positive about is regulatory reform.   One administration proposal is that for every new regulation, two must be eliminated or significantly reformed. The administration has also reached out to business groups requesting regulatory changes that would streamline how businesses operate.

According to a recent George Washington University study, the volume of regulations published annually has increased from 75,000 pages per year in 1975 to nearly 180,000 pages per year in 2015--and growing.   

Businesses have staff and employ consultants to monitor these daily, so that compliance is maintained.    Specifically, the electric utility industry is one of the most regulated... Continue Reading >>

Lowering our greenhouse gas impact at home


January 11, 2017   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

Full Lifecycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Most Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables Occur During Production

Everything we do has some type of impact on the environment.

We have all heard that electricity production is responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To be exact, in 2014, the energy sector was responsible for 30 percent of U.S. GHG emissions , with coal-based energy the largest contributor. Using less energy is always a good way to help lower GHG emissions. 

At Santee Cooper, we have seen a decline in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Cross Generating Station, our largest coal-fired facility. C02 is a GHG and in 2015, we emitted 5.6 billion pounds less than in 2014, as we rely more heavily on natural gas-fired generation.

Transportation emissions (cars, boats, aircraft, etc.) are also large contributors at 26 percent . Driving more efficient vehicles, maintaining our vehicles or simply driving less can lower our impact at home.

While both of these are certainly large... Continue Reading >>

Mitigation is getting more complicated


August 10, 2016   By Jay Hudson in

This snowy egret, perched on a railing at Santee Cooper’s Jefferies Hydroelectric Station, co-exists with human activities at the facility, which includes boating and angling activities. The challenge Santee Cooper and other electric utilities  face is meeting increasingly stringent environmental and regulatory requirements, juxtaposed with the responsibility of providing reliable and affordable electric power to customers.     

Over the years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed an excellent program to protect our wetland habitats. Wetlands are important features within our landscape that provide numerous beneficial functions to fish and wildlife – and people.

Some of these functions include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters, and maintaining surface-water flow during dry periods.  

The Corps protects wetlands through a well-developed mitigation program. If a potential project will impact wetlands, the Corps will require the project developer to provide mitigation for the impacted wetlands. Simplified, the Corps has a “no-net loss” policy in that additional wetlands must be enhanced or even created to “mitigate” the wetlands that are impacted. It’s a system that has a structure in place and has worked for years.

Recently, the U.S. Fish and... Continue Reading >>

Sustainable electricity


June 16, 2016   By Jay Hudson in Environmental Stewardship

This SEFA Group truck is loading a coal ash product at Santee Cooper’s Winyah Generating Station near Georgetown that will be used for industrial purposes and not landfilled.

What is sustainable electricity? There are many definitions of how to meet social, environmental and economic goals simultaneously (referred to as the “triple bottom line”). The issue with electric utilities is how to do this in a heavily regulated environment while producing reliable, affordable power delivered directly to the customer’s home or business 24 hours per day, every day. It’s a complex issue with many moving parts. 

The idea of sustainably is a simple one: Provide what is needed (electricity) to ensure the product remains viable and productive – ensure it is sustained. Santee Cooper is working on many of these moving parts. Just to highlight a few:

Renewable energy – Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s leader with 130 megawatts either online or under contract. From the first landfill gas site to the state’s largest solar array in Colleton County to a new community solar program, Santee... Continue Reading >>

Santee Cooper continues to reduce carbon emissions


March 23, 2016   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters
On Feb. 9, a divided U.S. Supreme Court took extraordinary action to indefinitely stay the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP). This happened after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request to stay the rule. A 29-state coalition appealed to the Supreme Court, and in an unprecedented move the justices voted 5-4 to order the Obama administration to hold off on implementing the CPP until its legal challenges play out in court.

The regulation, which targets a nationwide reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector, will be on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviews the plan and any subsequent Supreme Court appeals are over. A hearing at the D.C. Circuit is set for June 2.

Some experts believe that EPA's comments on the Mercury Air Toxics Rule , which was remanded last summer by the Supreme Court for the agency's lack of consideration of compliance costs, may have... Continue Reading >>

A breath of fresh air


December 22, 2015   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters

Source: www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Air/MostCommonPollutants/Ozone/NAAQS/

On Oct. 1, the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the final National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone at 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is below the 2008 standard of 75 ppb.

The proposed rule considered changing the standard to as low as 60 ppb, and I discussed concerns over an unjustifiably low ozone standard earlier this year . While Santee Cooper urged EPA to not modify the standard at all, the agency did respond to scientifically based comments and kept the standard at the higher end of the range.

What's positive about this development is South Carolina is ready to comply. In the past decade, when some ozone levels were over 80 ppb, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) established local air quality partnerships with local governments to encourage and implement voluntary efforts to reduce ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (mostly from vehicle... Continue Reading >>

We planned for the Clean Power Plan


September 30, 2015   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters

On July 23, 2015, SCE&G and its partners placed the 2.4-million pound CA01 module, which will house a number of major components in the first of two new units under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. The CA01 module is a multi-compartment steel structure within the Unit 2 containment vessel. It's approximately 90 feet long, 95 feet wide, and 80 feet tall. [Via]

In 2007, our board of directors set an ambitious goal: to create 40 percent of our energy from non-greenhouse gas emitting resources, biomass fuels, energy efficiency and conservation by 2020. In the following eight years, Santee Cooper has become a state leader in saving energy through efficiency programs and generating energy from renewable sources including solar, landfill gas and biomass power. In late August, we generated our 1 millionth megawatt-hour of Green Power.

A key component of this 2007 goal was Santee Cooper's interest in two nuclear units currently under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County. These two 1,117-megawatt units will soon provide customers with clean, non-greenhouse-gas-emitting electricity. Together with energy efficiency and renewables, the 40 percent goal will be met.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final rule to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power... Continue Reading >>

The cost of compliance really does matter


July 08, 2015   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters
On June 29, the Supreme Court of the United States found the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the costs of compliance when it issued the Mercury and Air Toxins Standards (MATS for short) rule in late 2011.

In its official opinion , the Court stated: "The Agency refused to consider cost when making its decision. It estimated, however, that the cost of its regulations to power plants would be $9.6 billion a year, but the quantifiable benefits from the resulting reduction in hazardous-air-pollutant emissions would be $4 to $6 million a year. Petitioners (including 23 States) sought review of EPA's rule in the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the Agency's refusal to consider costs in its decision to regulate."

What this means is EPA had estimated the MATS rule would cost electric utilities almost $10 billion annually to comply while only producing $4 million to  $6 million per year in benefits from removing the targeted... Continue Reading >>

Navigating the Waters of the United States


April 15, 2015   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters
In order to determine what constitutes "jurisdictional" bodies of water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers actually has a definition of "Waters of the U.S." This definition began with the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 as "navigable waters, or tributaries thereof" when the Corps was assigned the responsibility of regulating crossings and maintaining waterways typically for transportation and commerce. Dredging the Charleston Harbor channel is a local example. 

Many years ago, during an update to the Clean Water Act , the Corps of Engineers was given responsibility to regulate wetlands, and the definition of jurisdictional "Waters of the U.S." took on a much more important meaning. Over the years, through various legal decisions, this definition narrowed to include those water bodies and features that were connected to a flowing water body, like a stream or lake. Swampy areas that were not directly connected were considered "isolated wetlands" and were excluded... Continue Reading >>

New Ozone Regulations - What's the Right Balance?


January 26, 2015   By Jay Hudson in Energy Matters
There are two sources of ozone that are important to us. The ozone in our upper atmosphere protects us from the sun's ultraviolet rays, and we couldn't survive without it. Then there's ground level ozone, which can be harmful to our lungs. It is formed through a chemical reaction when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) interact with sunlight. Emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, gasoline vapors and solvents are all sources of NOx and VOCs. Natural sources, such as plant life and fires, also contribute to the formation of ozone.

The current national standard for ozone is 75 parts per billion (ppb), which is 33 percent lower than it was in 1980. Most of the country is meeting this standard, but there are still dense population centers like Houston and Southern California that do not meet the current standard.

Based on 40-year-old provisions in the Clean Air Act, EPA evaluates the standard every... Continue Reading >>