center for partnerships & innovation

Energy Infrastructure Modernization

Energy Infrastructure Modernization

Coal Modernization and Carbon Management

The market for coal-fired electricity has significantly evolved in recent decades, with coal’s share of generation falling across the country. However, coal-fired power is an important resource in many states, and public utility commissions have an interest in understanding opportunities for the U.S. coal fleet to evolve. The U.S. Department of Energy and NARUC established a Coal Modernization and Carbon Management Partnership as a cooperative effort to highlight new technology and regulatory approaches to:

  • Improving the environmental and economic performance of coal-fired power plants
  • Understanding new market opportunities for coal byproducts
  • Increasing the deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage projects

Coal Modernization and Carbon Management Partnership activities are closely coordinated with the NARUC Subcommittee on Clean Coal and Carbon Management.

  • The Role of State Utility Regulators in a Just and Reasonable Energy Transition: Examining Regulatory Approaches to the Economic Impacts of Coal Retirements, September 2021
    The ongoing trend of coal retirements has disproportionately affected the socioeconomic health of communities where power plants are located. For many public utility commissions, these impacts have led to important questions around the scope of PUCs’ statutory authority to analyze, consider and mitigate losses to host communities within their role as utility regulators. Due largely to variations in state legislative charges, commissions have taken different approaches to articulating what lies within the public interest.This report examines the authority of PUCs across the country to consider non-energy economic impacts beyond direct ratepayer effects, and summarizes approaches that PUCs, utilities and other stakeholders have used to mitigate the economic fallout of coal retirements, specifically.
  • Coal and Carbon Management Guidebook: Coal-to-Hydrogen Opportunities and Challenges, September 2021
    This guidebook provides a detailed outlook of the opportunities and challenges for coal and biomass resources and infrastructure to participate in the growing low-carbon hydrogen economy. It also outlines the present and forecasted market demand for hydrogen, addresses how state utility regulators can analyze and manage risks associated with low-carbon hydrogen technologies and summarizes DOE’s investments in research and development for hydrogen production from coal and biomass.
  • A Comprehensive Survey of Coal Ash Law and Commercialization: Its Environmental Risks, Disposal Regulation, and Beneficial Use Markets, February 2020
    Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the report cites 478 plants that generate coal ash. Utility-owned coal ash impoundments can be found in 24 states across the country. In 2017, more than 100 million tons of coal ash were generated. Although 64 percent of coal ash is recycled, disposal of the remainder is still a concern for utilities and both environmental and utility regulators due to the environmental and public health threats and costs of potential coal ash spills, as have occurred in some states. The costs of cleaning up decades of accumulated coal ash and complying with current regulations can run well into the billions of dollars, making the allocation and control of costs matters of primary concern for state utility regulators. This paper offers a comprehensive look at coal ash policies and challenges for utilities, state utility regulators, and other stakeholders.
  • Recent Changes to U.S. Coal Plant Operations and Current Compensation Practices, January 2020
    A new white paper commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners examines the impacts of changes in the electricity generation mix on operating coal-fired power plants. With 30 gigawatts of coal capacity having retired in the past two years, the report details how remaining coal plants are managing increasing pressure to act as load-following — or cycling—resources, particularly in states with high reliance on intermittent renewable generation. Recent Changes to U.S. Coal Plant Operations and Current Compensation Practices explores the impacts of this ongoing shift and offers an overview of strategies for coal plant owners and operators to manage costs while providing flexible electricity generation.
  • Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration: Technology and Policy Status and Opportunities, November 2018
    This paper examines the present state of carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) and the challenges to widespread deployment in the energy sector. It explores the policy and technology environment for coal-fired power generation and CCUS for energy and industrial uses. It offers an array of actions policymakers and regulators can use to encourage CCUS adoption to extend the life of existing coal-fired power plants while drastically cutting carbon dioxide emissions, illuminating how the coal plant of the future could look. The report highlights the importance of public-private partnerships between the National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, universities, research organizations, and utilities in advancing research, development, demonstration, and deployment for CCUS technology.
  • Advancing Innovation with CCUS Hubs: A Case Study of Houston, Texas, April 28, 2022
    Carbon capture is a key pathway to meeting decarbonization goals, particularly for baseload electricity generation and hard-to-abate industrial sectors. Alongside capture technologies, enabling infrastructure is required to transport, use, and/or store captured carbon. In order to rapidly decarbonize, policymakers, regulators, utilities, and industry leaders are considering a “net-zero hub” approach to support infrastructure and workforce development in optimal regions. One of these potential hubs could be located in Houston, TX, leveraging the region’s array of refining and petrochemical facilities, oil and gas production and transportation, skilled energy workforce, and favorable geology to position Houston as a global carbon capture leader. On this webinar, panelists will share perspectives on why Houston is a likely location for a net-zero hub, opportunities for co-located carbon capture and hydrogen production, and how regulators can deploy technologies that benefit ratepayers and the environment in Texas and beyond.
    Time will be reserved for questions. This webinar is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy-NARUC Coal Modernization and Carbon Management Partnership.
    Moderator: Hon. Brent Bailey, Mississippi
    • Mahak Agrawal, Staff Associate II (Carbon Management Initiative + India Program), Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy
    • Charles McConnell, Energy Center Officer, University of Houston Center for Carbon Management
    • Mike Nasi, Partner, Jackson Walker and General Counsel, Southern States Energy Board

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  • Virtual Briefing: Project Tundra and Prospects for Carbon Capture in North Dakota, March 31, 2022
    As states move towards decarbonization goals, the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be crucial to capture emissions from coal and natural gas generation and emissions-intensive industrial processes. Project Tundra is a collaborative effort between Minnkota Power Cooperative, the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, and other partners to install technology to capture 90 percent of emissions from Milton R. Young Station, a coal-fired power plant in central North Dakota. Captured carbon would be permanently stored underground. On this virtual briefing, development lead David Greeson shared an overview of the plant and the proposed CCS project; a history of how the project has advanced from concept to final engineering study, and what is next; how North Dakota’s regulatory and policy environment, infrastructure, and geology contributed to the selection of Milton R. Young Station for the likeliest next CCS project in the U.S.; and lessons from the design, construction, and operation of past CCS projects to maximize the potential benefits of Project Tundra to Minnkota Power members and the environment.

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  • White Paper Briefing: Coal-to-Hydrogen Challenges and Opportunities, September 28, 2021
    This briefing will provide an overview of a forthcoming white paper on coal-to-hydrogen challenges and opportunities. The whitepaper, which is scheduled for release at the end of September, will serve as a resource for commissions by discussing coal-to-hydrogen production in the context of the U.S. hydrogen market and the state of various hydrogen production technologies. The paper will also summarize the present and forecasted demands for hydrogen, outline DOE priorities for coal-to-hydrogen research and development, and the challenges and opportunities for state utility regulators. Time will be reserved for questions.
    Moderator: Andreas Thanos, Policy Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities
    Speaker: Michael Mudd, Consultant for Advanced Technology Projects, BCS
  • Webinar: Federal-State Collaboration for Energy Community Revitalization, September 20, 2021
    In February 2021, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization was established by executive order to identify resources and strategies to support energy workers and communities affected by the energy transition. In April, the IWG released an initial report identifying 25 communities in need of urgent assistance and resources available for immediate deployment. More recently, the IWG has hosted listening sessions with state and local leaders to understand state needs and challenges, with the goal of streamlining application requirements and increasing available resources to support economic revitalization and innovation in energy communities. On this webinar, IWG leaders shared lessons learned from the initial report and listening sessions to date and highlight opportunities for collaboration with state public utility commissions.
    Moderator: Commissioner Ellen Nowak, Wisconsin
    • Dr. Brian Anderson, IWG Executive Director and Director, National Energy Technology Laboratory
    • Dr. Briggs White, IWG Deputy Executive Director, National Energy Technology Laboratory
    • Craig Buerstatte, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, U.S. Economic Development Administration

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  • Webinar: Policy Outlook for Carbon Capture in the 2020s, June 9, 2021
    Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies are increasingly being recognized as an essential solution for reducing economy-wide carbon emissions and providing economic stimulus. Supportive policies to accelerate the development and deployment of CCUS technologies have appeared in various White House and congressional proposals for climate policy, infrastructure spending, and economic stimulus for COVID-19 recovery. The American Jobs Plan, for example, includes support for the bipartisan Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act, reform and expansion of the Section 45Q tax credit for CCUS, and proposals for new demonstration projects to retrofit power generation and industrial facilities for carbon capture. And CCUS deployment for power generation and industrial processes is a key piece of President Biden’s 2030 greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets. Considering what has been proposed, which policies would be most meaningful to CCUS deployment, and which are likely to become law? This webinar provided a high-level overview of the federal policy landscape for CCUS, with panelists sharing their perspectives on:
    • Key CCUS-related elements of recent federal climate, infrastructure, and stimulus initiatives;
    • Administration views on the role of CCUS in the power and industrial sectors; and
    • The role of U.S. Department of Energy and the National Laboratories in advancing CCUS technologies.
    Moderator: Commissioner Ellen Nowak, Wisconsin.
    • Angelos Kokkinos, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, U.S. Department of Energy
    • Madelyn Morrison, External Affairs Manager, Carbon Capture Coalition
    • Emeka Richard Ochu, Research Associate, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University

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  • WIEB + NARUC Carbon Capture, Utilization & Storage Workshop Six-Part Webinar Series, Sept. 11 - Oct. 16, 2020
    View agenda
    View summary
    The NARUC Subcommittee on Clean Coal and Carbon Management invites Commissioners and other stakeholders to explore challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. coal fleet in a six-part webinar series on Fridays 1:00 - 2:00 pm ET between Sept. 11 and Oct. 16, 2020. This series will connect Commissioners with experts from the power industry, federal and state government, and other key voices. NARUC thanks the Western Interstate Energy Board and the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy for their support of this activity.
  • Site Visit to Bristol, VA, October 2019
    Commissioners toured Coronado Coal’s Buchanan underground mine complex and the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, an innovative dual-fuel (coal and biomass) power plant.
  • Site Visit to Birmingham, AL, May 2019
    Commissioners toured Plant E.C. Gaston and the National Carbon Capture Center, a DOE-Southern Company facility offering test bays for carbon capture technologies for coal- or gas-fired power generation.
  • Site Visit to Gillette, WY, September 2018
    Commissioners toured the Cordero Rojo surface mine, Dry Fork Station, and the Integrated Test Center, a research and test facility attached to Dry Fork where Carbon XPrize teams can test their carbon capture and utilization technologies on an operating coal-fired plant.
  • Site Visit to Bismarck, ND, May 2018
    Commissioners toured Coal Creek Station and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, a coal gasification facility that produces numerous useful products from regional coal supplies. Commissioners heard presentations on the regional energy market and carbon sequestration research from the Lignite Energy Council, a local energy industry association, and the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota.
  • Site Visit to Houston, TX, September 2017
    Commissioners toured the Petra Nova carbon capture project at NRG’s W.A. Parish power plant southwest of Houston. Petra Nova is the first commercial scale carbon capture project on a coal-fired power plant. Captured carbon is compressed and sent via pipeline to West Ranch Oilfield, where it is utilized in enhanced oil recovery.
  • Site Visit to Morgantown, WV, May 2017
    Commissioners toured Longview Power, one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Commissioners also visited the Morgantown campus of the National Energy Technology Laboratory and heard from portfolio managers leading coal and carbon capture research projects.


  • NARUC is grateful to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory for funding the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Partnership, which enables the resources and activities described on this webpage.

Key Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Partnership Members:

  • Commissioner Tony O'Donnell, Montana Public Service Commission
  • Commissioner Ellen Nowak, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
  • Membership of the NARUC Subcommittee on Clean Coal and Carbon Management

NARUC staff experts who support these activities include: