California can support clean coal power plants in the West through procurement and incentives without jeopardizing its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and get economical electricity to boot, according to a panel of energy scientists and policy analysts. They addressed the California Energy Commission at a 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report workshop on August 17 and 18. The commission is using information presented at the workshop to recommend environmental criteria for procuring electricity from out of state, including power produced at coal plants. Integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology "is ready for prime time," said William Rosenberg, Kennedy School of Public Policy senior fellow and former assistant administrator for air for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. IGCC is a technology that turns coal into gas before burning it in combined-cycle turbines. Loan guarantees of up to 80 percent authorized under the recently enacted federal energy policy legislation for IGCC coal plants could provide California wih power for as little as 3.7 cents\/kWh, according to Rosenberg. He and others urged the state to quickly identify and back a project that could qualify for a Western earmark under the federal law. Analysts also said that clean coal power will help check the price of natural gas, which has become a drag on the state?s economy. "You're paying $13 billion to $15 billion more a year for your gas because all these new power plants have driven up the price," said Rosenberg. "It ain't over yet." Rosenberg said the state could even consider setting up coal gasification facilities near Bakersfield to make syngas for power plants and other purposes. The Utility Reform Network attorney Matt Freedman urged the commission to take a balanced approach in its report. "Looking at $10 [per MMBtu] gas, we believe that coal may be a part of that solution," he said. To withstand potential legal challenges under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the state will have to be careful to craft procurement requirements that are nondiscriminatory, said Jonathan Blees, CEC assistant chief counsel. He urged the commission to recommend general performance-based standards that apply to both in-state and out-of-state procurement and to avoid naming specific fuels and technologies. Coal is abundant in the West, which has a reserve of 240 billion tons that could last for more than 100 years, said Steve Larson, Western Interstate Energy Board director. Even environmental organizations backed clean coal for California because, if coupled with carbon dioxide sequestration, it would allow the state to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 11 percent by 2010 (<i>Circuit<\/i>, June 3, 2005). "If you decide you want coal in your mix, you can do it without carbon dioxide and without significant impact on ratepayers," David Hawkins, Natural Resources Defense Council climate center director, told commissioners. He outlined numerous IGCC plants around the world that already capture and sequester carbon dioxide, including the Basin Electric Power Cooperative plant in Beulah, North Dakota, which pipes it to Canada for underground injection in enhanced oil recovery. California should go beyond seeking federal support for a Western IGCC plant and offer its own financial incentives, urged John Nielsen, Western Resources Advocates energy project director. He further urged the California Public Utilities Commission to allow cost recovery for controls to minimize emissions from IGCC plants of such pollutants as mercury and fine particles, as well as carbon dioxide. "Your message falls on friendly, interested ears," replied commissioner James Boyd. Wyoming is interested in partnering with California on construction of an IGCC plant, perhaps coupled with a wind power facility, said Steve Ellenbecker, energy policy consultant to Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal. "The opportunity is to merge and marry these resources on the same transmission line," he said, referring to the proposed Frontier Line between Wyoming and California (<i>Circuit<\/i>, May 20, 2005).