For Immediate Release: February 29, 2012
Contact: Jenna Garland, Sierra Club, (404) 281-6398
Dr. Lauren Ross, Glenrose Engineering, email@example.com
Jen Powis, Sierra Club, (832) 453-4404
New Report Shows
Coal Plants Deprive Texans of Water
to Meet Other Demands
Switch to Clean Energy Would Save
Water, Increase Reliability
Austin, TX – Today, a new report released by the Sierra Club finds that
the 19 existing coal-fired power plants in Texas have placed
a high demand on the state’s water supply at a time when the state can ill afford it. The report, entitled Water for Coal-Fired Power Generation in Texas: Current and Future Demands, shows that over the next 50 years gaps between demand and available resources will grow if Texas continues to rely primarily on water-intensive coal-fired power. The state’s
water plan projects the annual demand for water for steam-electric
power generation to more than double over this period.
The report also finds that the state has failed to keep
accurate records for how much water is used by these coal
fired power plants, and that eliminating this wasteful
use of water by transitioning to cleaner forms of electric
generation would make water available for other critical
uses in Texas.
“The report’s key findings show that for a drought-prone
state, Texas relies too heavily on water-intensive means
of electricity generation,” said lead report author Dr. Lauren Ross. “Texas’s
clean energy capacity has been proven, and is substantially
less water-intensive. A robust transition from coal-fired
electricity to clean energy would increase reliability and
free water resources for other important uses.”
Coal’s dependence on large water resources creates a risk for grid reliability that state officials and municipalities must plan for. Lower Colorado River Authority Manager Becky Motal recently stated in the Austin American-Statesman that water for farmers may not be released in the spring and LCRA customers, such as the Fayette Power Project coal plant, “will be required to curtail water use if combined storage in Lakes Buchanan and Travis falls to 600,000 acre-feet...” While
recent rains have raised water levels, water curtailment
for the Fayette coal plant could require it to temporarily
reduce or suspend its operations, making its power unavailable
to customers. In times of high demand, losing capacity
from water curtailment could lead to brownouts or blackouts.
“Texas should not need to choose between water
for drinking and agriculture, and water to operate coal
plants,” said Jen Powis, with Sierra Club. “This report should give state officials the wakeup call they need. It’s
time to retire our old coal fleet and tap into our vast wind,
solar, and efficiency markets that will provide jobs and
power without straining our resources to the limit.”
Elizabeth Craig, a Sierra Club member and Driftwood Resident,
said “The state has its priorities backwards. We need water for cities, people, and the environment, not coal plants. We can’t grow our food without water, but we can get our power without water. It’s
time to switch.”
Other major findings of the report include projections that water demand for steam-electric generation will double in the Brazos water area, which covers Abilene, Waco, Temple, Kileen, and Bryan, TX, with 20% of this increase in demand for water directly attributed to coal-fired power. In total, coal power will account for 34% of all unmet demands in the region.
In the Lower Colorado water planning area, including Austin, eliminating water use at the Fayette Power Project would eliminate 5% of total current unmet water demand and 61% of the current projected non-agricultural water deficit. In the South Central Texas region, 12% of the total projected shortfall by 2060 is attributed to water intensive power generation like coal. In the Coastal Bend area, unmet water demand for power is projected to account for 17% of the total projected shortfall. The South Central area includes San Antonio, New Braunfels, Victoria, and San Marcos and the Coastal Bend area includes Corpus Christi.
The Coastal Bend Area and water planning area encompassing Houston and the surrounding counties are unique in that both regions have proposals to build new coal fired power plants: White Stallion Energy Center in Bay City, and Las Brisas Energy Center in Corpus Christi. Citizen opposition has sprung up to challenge both White Stallion and Las Brisas Energy Centers, with area residents being concerned over water impacts. Given the already large demand coal-fired power places on these parts of the state, new generation projects are ill-timed and poorly planned. Both proposed facilities are likely unnecessary to meet power needs and could be replaced with clean energy generation.