I was raised in Shelbyville and have recently returned to my home state. Over the past 30 years, I have been privileged to work with teams that developed, built and operated electric power plants around the U.S. and the world. For the last five years, my focus has been in developing utility-scale renewable energy projects in the U.S.
In response to former congressman Geoff Davis' commentary, I would suggest that he stick to the facts and focus on getting Kentucky's energy policy into the 21st century and creating high-quality jobs.
Since Davis is a West Point graduate, who represented Kentucky in Congress for more than six years, Kentuckians should expect more truthfulness from him. Instead, he misrepresents the truth by making sweeping generalizations.
He should acknowledge that any new power plant built in Kentucky can't be coal-fired because Kentucky law requires regulated electric utilities and cooperatives to use the "least-cost standard," which currently is a natural gas-fired combine cycle combustion turbine plant. The process of developing the new climate rules will be tough, because some leaders in Frankfort have a long track record of mandating coal and not recognizing the benefits of a diversified energy plan that includes energy efficiency measures and renewables, like large-scale solar generating plants.
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The fact is, coal jobs and coal production have been on the decline in Eastern Kentucky because that coal is 55 percent higher in energy costs than Western Kentucky coal. He should also mention that all existing coal-fired power plants in Kentucky will soon be required by law to be equipped with the best available control technology that removes sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury emissions. Therefore, they will be importing cheaper coal from states like Illinois and Indiana.
Despite the fact that technology allows us to burn coal cleaner, it is still an environmental challenge.
Davis misinforms his fellow Kentuckians when he states: "To the everlasting wonder of radical environmentalists, those countries (China and India) are not enacting similar policies because they recognize the simple truth that burning coal can be done cleanly with current technologies and that coal remains among the cheapest and most efficient sources of energy."
It makes for a good story, but it's not true.
China has some of the worst air quality in the world due to the burning of coal. Remember the 2008 Olympics and how China had to shut down factories for several weeks prior to and during the games and how several athletes refused to compete due to the dangerous levels of air pollution?
I traveled extensively in China for business. Whether I was in an urban or rural area, the air pollution was so bad that there was no blue sky, no birds, no trees and I was always guaranteed to return home with a severe sore throat. Even China has recognized that it can do better and has reduced dependency on coal. In 2013, China became the world's leading photovoltaic solar installer by adding 11,300 megawatts of capacity while Kentucky added only 2 megawatts.
Kentucky needs forward-thinking leadership. I ask Davis to have the courage to promote choices for Kentuckians, such as supporting legislation that allows businessmen like myself the opportunity to implement energy-efficiency measures and build large-scale renewable projects, thus creating high-quality jobs.
If leaders like Davis and House Speaker Greg Stumbo do not support laws that allow voters, businesses and state energy officials to develop and implement a sustainable energy plan that includes renewables and efficiency measures, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will.
We can't sit back as ratepayers and voters face a future of never-ending double-digit electric rate increases. We need to act now to have more control over our lives and budgets.