“Clean Coal Technology” are words that the energy industry never expected to hear together. After all, when you think of coal you think of dark, black smoke, toxic emissions and chronic health problems such as black lung disease. But thanks to the rise of clean coal technologies, that is not the case today. Today’s clean coal technologies represent several generations of technological advances that have led to more efficient combustion of coal with reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The goal of clean coal technologies are to lessen the environmental and human impact of coal by reducing air emissions and pollutants from coal burning power plants. Clean coal technologies started to take hold beginning in the late 1980s but it didn’t start gaining momentum until the early 2000s.
According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), coal burning power plants built today emit 90 percent less pollutants (SO2, NOx, particulates and mercury) than the coal burning power plants from the 1970s. Likewise, regulated emissions from coal-based electricity generation have decreased overall by over 40 percent since the1970s even though the use of coal has tripled over that same time period.
Due to technological advances and growing interest in government-funded research, companies are expanding their clean coal technology goals to include larger projects to tackle new environmental issues. Here are just a few of the sources of funding that enable companies to research, develop and commercialize new technologies to clean up coal emissions and reduce their human and environmental impact.
- The Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI): The CCPI is a program headed by the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy office. It provides co-funding on projects that focus on find ways to cut down on harmful pollutants being released into the air. The program also helps companies with coal plants convert fuel to electricity more efficiently. The CCPI has funded six projects between 2009 and 2010.
- State Funded Programs: States can offer funding and tax incentives for coal plants to clean up their emissions. State funded programs receive approval and funds for clean energy programs from the federal government. A great example of a state run program is the Texas Clean Energy Project.. Their goal is to clean up fossil fuels in Texas. The project is set to launch in 2015.
- Private Investments: Coal factories wanting to green can ask private investors for help. Clean energy is a popular sector in invest in. Companies who are doing research into CCT can also receive money from private investors. It is estimated that between 2005 and 2009, clean energy investments rose 230 percent.
- Universities: Colleges will fund student clean energy initiatives and research As universities are creating the next generation of engineers and clean energy specialist, these programs will give students head start in the industry. These programs are often partnered with larger laboratories and the U.S. Department of Energy.
- United States Department of Agriculture: The USDA offers funding for the refitting of coal factories with equipment that brings it up to code with the Clean Air Act. They provide money for factories to help ensure that they are producing cleaner coal with less harmful emissions. The USDA primarily provides funding for rural plants.
As they continue to evolve and mature, new technologies are helping to change the perception about coal as a fuel source. For generations, coal has been thought of as one the dirtiest of fossil fuels. However, programs like the CCPI are seeking to change the dynamics of coal energy and in the process, demonstrate that coal can be utilized in a manner that minimizes its impact on environmental and human health. Clean coal programs are getting more funding from the federal and state government. Clean energy business are growing and so are the number of private investors wanting to get involved with these technologies. Although coal may not be the greenest choice for meeting our fuel needs, there is little argument that for the foreseeable future, it will continue to be one of the most abundant and affordable fossil fuels in the world. Therefore, is important that these programs receive funding.