Prospective Students







2005-06 Seminars

U.S. Scene for Electric Power and Future Energy Systems -- Tipping Point or Opportunity for Clean Coal Technologies?

Michael Eastman


A high-level and fast-paced presentation will be given that portrays coal as the most abundant fossil energy resource both in the United States and throughout the world. Coal is expected to play an important part in comprising the U.S. energy portfolio and continue to provide about half of our electric power well into the future. However, environmental emissions from coal have increasingly become a target of public concern and regulations. Due to a series of continuing advances in coal mining and coal utilization technology, coal remains an economically and environmentally viable fuel of choice for electric power generation in many developed and developing countries. Through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (U.S. DOE’s) Coal & Power Programs, a number of technologies are being developed and demonstrated to meet the environmental challenges of coal usage for electric power generation applications. These programs span a broad spectrum of research (e.g., bench-scale), development (e.g., pilot & proof-of-concept scale), and demonstration (e.g., commercial scale) activities. Applicable technologies include coal combustion, gasification, and conversion, as well as technologies for the control of SO2, NOx, Hg, and fine particulate emissions, and byproduct utilization processes. A variety of promising ideas are being fostered among these technology categories under the coal R&D programs, where U.S. DOE typically bears up to 80% of the R&D project costs. Large, commercial-scale projects are conducted under U.S. DOE’s Clean Coal demonstration programs, where the government can cost-share up to 50% of the demonstration project costs. These demonstration programs include 36 projects demonstrated under the Clean Coal Technology (CCT) program of the 1980s and 1990s, 6 projects under the Power Plant Improvement Initiative (PPII), and 12 projects have been selected under the first two rounds of the Bush Administration’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI). The U.S is confronting many challenges with respect to its energy an economic future paper as it prepares to make investments in its infrastructure to address the continuing priorities of a cleaner environment and assure the reliability and affordability of its energy resources. Important keys to a strong economy are affordable energy and electricity. RD&D has resulted in a variety of clean coal technologies that have proved successful in mitigating concerns associated with acid rain precursor emissions (i.e., SO2 and NOx), a new generation of highly efficient power plant technologies, supplemented by carbon sequestration, may allow us to address climate change concerns while continuing to utilize the world’s abundant coal reserves. Toward that end, U.S. DOE is now embarking on new research priorities with a new initiative known as FutureGen, which will feature an advanced, nearly emissions-free coal power plant capable of co-producing electricity and hydrogen, in combination with CO2 sequestration.

With opportunity comes challenge; the challenge of addressing an unknown future with an energy supply infrastructure that meets society’s expectations of a clean environment, is secure in an insecure world, is affordable and such enables a strong economy and is robust enough to shield the economy from rapid swings in energy prices. It is a complex problem, are we facing a tipping point? How can we tell?