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This chart by the Conservation Law Foundation shows how PSNH's coal-fired plants have been used less and less, for economic reasons: natural-gas-fired plants are cheaper. (
Monday, June 24, 2013

Will Obama's power-plant regulations hit NH's coal-fired trio?

President Obama is expected to push for caps on carbon emissions from power plants when he gives a big pollution speech tomorrow (Tuesday). The question for New Hampshire is what effect this will have on the two 50-MW coal-fired Schiller Station boilers in Portsmouth and the huge, 459-MW coal-fired Merrimack Station plant in Bow. Both are a half-century old and none is likely to meet any carbon-related emissions standards.

The situation has financial and political complications because some folks (including staff with the state regulatory body, PUC) argue that PSNH should sell the plants and limit itself just to transmitting energy, not creating it, as is the case with most regulated utilities in a deregulated world. PSNH disagrees, and argues that the plants provide valuable diversity for New England's increasing natural-gas energy monoculture. If these plants suddenly have to spent millions of dollars to meet new standards, it's hard to see what future they have.

Expect to hear some "I told you so" statements from New Hampshire environmentalists who opposed spending $450 million on scrubbers that sharply cut mercury and sulphur emissions from Merrimack Station but did nothing about carbon. During the long debate about those scrubbers - a weird debate, because treehuggers opposed the scrubbers while PSNH supported them, a flop from debates in past years - they argued that the money would end up being wasted if carbon limits were imposed on coal-fired plants.

You probably know Schiller Station because of the Northern Wood Power Project, under which PSNH converted one of the three 50-MW boilers from coal to wood.