This from Greenwire today ($ub req’d): “The DOE FutureGen program has announced that their “clean coal” plus carbon sequestration is checking in at $1.8 billion for a 275 MW plant, or $6500/kW.”

OK, so it’s at an early stage, but even if you cut that cost in half, it still doesn’t pencil out. How long before we get over the illusion that coal is cheap?

Story below the fold. (Note that I have given them the benefit of the doubt that their description of the plant as a “275 watt” facility was a typographical error.)

The cost of a federal project aimed at demonstrating the viability of cleanly burning coal and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions has nearly doubled to $1.8 billion, the Energy Department said in a report released Friday.

Publication of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for FutureGen is scheduled to be announced in the Federal Register on Nov. 16, starting a 30-day public comment period after which the department is expected to give the go-ahead for each of the four sites examined — Mattoon and Tuscola in Illinois, and Jewett and Odessa in Texas.

The FutureGen Alliance, an association of coal companies and electric utilities that have joined DOE to design and build the 275-watt power plant, will then make the final site selection, with an announcement expected in December.

The finalized EIS updates the project’s price tag. In March 2004, DOE told Congress it would cost $950 million in 2004 dollars — a cost to be shared between the department and the FutureGen Alliance, with government paying 74 percent and industry paying 26 percent. The final EIS updates the total bill to $1.757 billion in as-spent dollars, with additional adjustments expected as work unfolds.

When operational, the plant is projected to generate $300 million from electricity sales over an unspecified time period, which DOE says will yield a net cost of $1.456 billion.

The EIS, which incorporates comments from the public and stakeholders, follows publication of a draft assessment in May (Greenwire, May 25). A major conclusion of that study was that risks associated with malfunctions of surface equipment like pipeline ruptures and wellhead leaks outweigh those linked to possible leakage of buried carbon dioxide.

A set of comments on the draft submitted jointly by advocacy groups Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council urged DOE to prepare a supplemental analysis with additional information on the geologic formations at each site and the decisionmaking process for selecting a site for underground injection of CO2. In its response, DOE said a supplemental statement would not be issued at this time but could be appropriate if new information becomes available.

Lawmakers from Illinois who have supported the project welcomed the announcement that all four of the proposed sites remain under consideration.

“We remain optimistic that when all factors are objectively and impartially considered, Illinois will prevail,” Republican Rep. Tim Johnson said in a statement.

Members of the FutureGen Alliance praised DOE for quickly finalization of its assessment. “The DOE issued the EIS in record time,” said group CEO Michael Mudd in a statement. “We will continue to work together to move FutureGen forward at a fast pace to develop this much-needed, first-of-a-kind research and development program,” he said.

DOE says that when it becomes operational, slated for 2012, FutureGen will be the cleanest fossil fuel-fired power plant in the world.