Fla. public power giant scraps coal

Source: By Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2020

Orlando, Fla.’s electric company will be coal-free by 2027 as it presses ahead with plans to meet net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2050.

The city-owned utility, which is the second-largest public power company in Florida, this week said it would convert its coal-burning units at the Stanton Energy Center to natural gas and that solar will become the main source of new generation. The utility will invest in energy storage and other energy technology to help ensure grid reliability.

The decision by the municipal utility, called the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), stems from its long-term electric integrated resource plan. It also aligns with the mayor’s 2017 resolution for Orlando to operate on 100% renewables by 2050.

The amount of coal on the nation’s power grid has been steadily falling over the past decade, with wind, solar and natural gas taking center stage (Climatewire, June 22). Florida’s electric companies got roughly one-third of their generation from coal in 2012, but that figure dropped to 12% in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Most of the state’s investor-owned utilities have cut coal from their mix.

NextEra’s Florida Power & Light Co. has removed coal from its generation. The company also is converting Gulf Power Co.’s Plant Crist to run on natural gas. Duke Energy Florida owns two coal units, whereas Emera’s Tampa Electric Co. operates a large coal plant and one that converts coal to gas.

OUC is among the state’s public power utilities that also operate coal plants. Tampa-based Seminole Electric Cooperative’s 1,300-megawatt coal-fired plant is among the largest.

OUC’s Stanton Energy Center also generates electricity from natural gas, solar and landfill gas.

“As we evolve to deliver clean energy and value to our customers, we’ve made significant investments in innovative, sustainable solutions,” said Clint Bullock, OUC’s general manager and CEO.