Testimony of Frank Alix before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at a Field Hearing at the University of New Hampshire, May 30, 2001
Chairman Smith and distinguished members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, thank you for the opportunity to share Powerspan’s perspective on innovative environmental technology and energy policy.
My name is Francis R. Alix and I am Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Powerspan Corp.
Powerspan is an emerging energy technology company headquartered in New Durham, New Hampshire. Our company was founded in 1994 and has grown to employ 45 people, most in high paying technical jobs. In order to fund technology development, the company has raised over $28 million to date from private, institutional, and corporate investors.
Over the past three years, Powerspan has focused its resources on the development and commercialization of a patented multi-pollutant control technology for coal-fired electric generating plants called Electro-Catalytic OxidationTM, or ECO. The ECO technology is designed to cost-effectively reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury (Hg), and fine particles (PM2.5) in a single, compact system. Several leading power generators are investors in the company or partners in ECO development. These include FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, Cinergy and Allegheny Energy.
Powerspan has successfully tested the ECO technology in a 2-megawatt slipstream of a coal-fired plant owned by FirstEnergy. During this test, ECO reduced emissions of:
The US Department of Energy recently selected Powerspan for funding under a solicitation for promising mercury control technologies for coal-based power systems. In addition, lab testing of our second-generation ECO technology has demonstrated nitrogen oxide removal of more than 90 percent, and sulfur dioxide removal of more than 99 percent.
Powerspan has begun installation of the first commercial ECO demonstration in a 50-megawatt slipstream at FirstEnergy’s Eastlake Plant near Cleveland, Ohio. The project is being co-funded by a $3.5 million grant from the Ohio Coal Development Office within the Ohio Department of Development. Successful completion of this demonstration in 2002 will lead to the availability of full-scale commercial ECO systems beginning in 2004.
As you consider the important role that innovative technology can play in further enhancing the environment, I would like to make the following points:
Let me briefly address each of these points.
Under the current interpretation of best available control technology – or BACT – generating utilities could not use ECO technology to help achieve NOx or SO2 reductions, even if it were almost as effective as the best available technology, and simultaneously achieved reduction of other pollutants such as mercury. Yet, if ECO technology were deployed throughout the industry, far more emission reductions could be achieved than through selective BACT deployment. And the associated health benefits would accrue to a larger percentage of the public. This kind of regulatory inflexibility doesn’t make economic sense and, more important, doesn’t make environmental sense.
Therefore, I support the President’s National Energy Policy call for multi-pollutant legislation that will establish a flexible, market-based program to significantly reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from electric power generating plants. I believe that Congress should determine the appropriate reduction requirements and time frame to phase in reductions, and then allow industry to meet them in the most cost-effective manner possible. A command-and-control approach would only serve to drive up costs and curb innovation.
Although Powerspan is proud to have achieved our success to date without government funding, I also support the continued emphasis of Congress and the President on research and development funding for clean energy technology.
In summary, I believe that increasing our energy supply, and at the same time, improving our environment is not only possible, but also imperative for the future well being of our society. Fortunately, our nation is blessed with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that will rise to such challenges. I believe political leaders must exercise a degree of faith in order to establish the environmental laws that look out over a decade or more to protect public health, when compliance uncertainty may exist. Given time and the right regulatory framework, the technology community will find an economical way to achieve the desired environmental benefits. History has demonstrated this time and again. And there are many companies like Powerspan full of talented individuals that are dedicated to this goal.