DOE - Fossil Energy Techline - Issued on:  February 6, 2001

Energy Department Seeks Projects To Improve Coal-Fired Power Plants

Abraham Says Initiative Part of a Balanced and Comprehensive Energy Plan

Morgantown, WV - The U.S. Department of Energy today called on the energy industry to participate in a nationwide competition for new power plant technologies that could help relieve the growing strain on America's electricity supplies in the coming years.

The new effort, termed the "Power Plant Improvement Initiative," is targeted at advanced clean coal technologies. Coal-burning power plants account for more than half of the nation's electricity.

The department issued a solicitation offering $95 million in federal matching funds for projects that demonstrate ways operators can boost the electricity produced by their power plants or that help the plants meet more stringent environmental standards.

"This initiative is another step in an effort to bring increased efficiency and new technologies to coal-burning plants. It also represents an area that is certain to be part of a balanced and comprehensive national energy policy to help us meet the energy demands and needs of the country well into the future," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.

Congress, with bipartisan support, added the money to the Energy Department's fiscal year 2001 budget last fall when warning signs of power reliability problems began to surface.

The initiative sets into motion a fast-track effort to test technologies that can be installed on current plants or designed into new plants to increase power generating efficiencies - in effect, generating more megawatts of electricity from the same amount of fuel. Currently, coal-fired power plants convert only a third of the energy value of the fuel into electricity.

Another category of eligible technologies will be those that can lower emissions of air pollutants and allow coal-burning power plants - especially older units - to continue operating while meeting more stringent air quality standards.

The department also envisions future technologies that would generate multiple products from coal in addition to electricity -- an approach that could further increase overall energy efficiencies. These technologies will also be eligible with a requirement that at least half of the fuel used by the plant be converted to electricity.

To be selected, candidate technologies must offer improvements well beyond the capabilities of today's commercial equipment and, at the same time, be mature enough to be deployed into the market within the next few years.

Winning proposers must commit to providing at least 50 percent of the cost to design, build and test the technology, and if the technology is commercially successful, the proposer must agree to repay the federal government's funding share.

The department is asking for proposals by April 19, 2001. The agency's National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is coordinating the initiative, will hold a public pre-application conference on February 15 at the laboratory's conference center in Morgantown, West Virginia. Proceedings will be "webcast" live over the Internet.

Winning projects are to be announced in late August or early September, and the projects should be underway this fall.

- End of Techline -

Procurement Specialist:
Joann Zysk, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, 412-386-6600, e-mail: