The exact effect of upcoming federal regulations on Independence Power & Light is still unknown, but department officials are planning ahead for the city’s power-generating units.

The exact effect of upcoming federal regulations on Independence Power & Light is still unknown, but department officials are planning ahead for the city’s power-generating units.

In one PowerPoint slide at Monday night’s Independence City Council study session, fewer than 10 environmental requirements are listed in a timeline of the past 40 years. Their names are recognizable and are easy to understand in layman’s terms, such as the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972.

The next PowerPoint slide displays several dozen arrows along a timeline from 2008 to 2017. The regulations include complicated, multifaceted abbreviations. IPL Deputy Director Paul Mahlberg told City Council members that these two graphs alone showcase the amount of Environmental Protection Agency-mandated regulations that are upcoming, most of which involve regulations on coal-generated power.

“Some folks in the industry are calling this ‘the train wreck,’ ” Mahlberg said of the proposed regulations that also would affect greenhouse gases and other energy forms.  

Citing a 2008 U.S. Energy Information Administration study, Mahlberg said more than 80 percent of Missouri’s energy consumption comes from coal-fired generation, compared to just 50 percent on a national level. The Midwest, Mahlberg said, is abundant in coal, which is the cheapest source of power historically.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation has predicted that if any of the four proposed environmental regulations are implemented, about one-fourth of the U.S. coal-generated power would be shut down.

Locally, the industrial boiler maximum achievable control technology regulations have been mandated at the Blue Valley units 1 and 2 and the Missouri City units 1 and 2. These EPA rules are designed to limit pollutants in smaller boilers, Mahlberg said. Because this rule was published within the past week, the city hasn’t had a chance to evaluate how it will affect those four units, Mahlberg said.

Sixty percent of IPL’s energy requirements are generated through participation agreements with Nebraska City (Neb.) Station Unit 2, which went online in May 2009, and Iatan (Mo.) 2, which went online in January. Both of these relatively new coal-fired power stations include some up-to-date environmental pollution control rules.

“Some of these rules will potentially impact these units but to a much lesser degree,” Mahlberg said of the upcoming federal regulations.

Also, about 5 percent of the city’s energy is generated through the Smoky Hills Wind Farm in Kansas, a long-term agreement that went online in December 2008.

“So, we’re dealing with 35 percent that we have to navigate through rules,” Mahlberg said.

Two years ago, IPL went through a master plan update that included the implementation of five recommended energy-efficiency programs. A second component of that plan, a new 161 kV transmission line, will be commissioned within the next month, Mahlberg said. That new line will improve reliability within the electric system.

Within the next several months, a consultant will update the master plan with a power supply analysis, which will include environmental regulations, cost information and fuel prices.

Mayor Don Reimal called the emerging regulations “something we need to keep up on top of,” adding that a potential cost increase could be associated with the mandatory regulations.

“There are a lot of challenges here, but we think we’re positioned well,” Mahlberg said. “Most of these regulations won’t go into effect for three or four years, but we have to start planning for it today.”