A new law dampens coal-by-wire prospects.
A new bill signed into law by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last September, and which went into effect in January 2007, essentially prohibits California utilities from signing long-term contracts for power, including those from out of state, unless they emit less than 1,000 pounds of CO2/MWh of electricity produced.
While the law does not specifically bar coal-fired generation, the limit is set low enough to rule out all coal-power plants. A modern, highly efficient natural gas-fired plant barely would qualify.
For many years, California has had it good. The state gets roughly 20 percent of its electrical energy from out-of-state coal without the environmental degradation associated with coal-burning power plants. This unwritten and unacknowledged policy, sometimes referred to as coal-by-wire, has served it well—offering cheap power without local pollution. But all good things eventually come to an end, and so it seems for the undeclared coal-by-wire policy.