Coal-fired power plants generate about one-half of the nation's electricity and about one-third of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which contribute to climate change. In 2003, the Department of Energy (DOE) initiated FutureGen--a commercial-scale, coal-fired power plant to incorporate integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), an advanced generating technology, with carbon capture and storage (CCS). The plant was to capture and store underground about 90 percent of its CO2 emissions. DOE's cost share was 74 percent, and industry partners agreed to fund the rest. Concerned about escalating costs, DOE restructured FutureGen. GAO was asked to examine (1) the original and restructured programs' goals, (2) similarities and differences between the new FutureGen and other DOE CCS programs, and (3) if the restructuring decision was based on sufficient information. GAO reviewed best practices for making programmatic decisions, FutureGen plans and budgets, and documents on the restructuring of FutureGen. GAO contacted DOE, industry partners, and experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Energy||1. To help ensure that important decisions about the FutureGen program reflect an adequate knowledge of the potential costs, benefits, and risks of viable options, and to promote the attainment of the goals of the program while protecting taxpayer interests, the Secretary of Energy should, before implementing significant changes to FutureGen or before obligating additional funds for such purposes, direct DOE staff to prepare a comprehensive analysis that compares the relative costs, benefits, and risks of a range of options that includes (1) the original FutureGen program, (2) incremental changes to the original program, and (3) the restructured FutureGen program.|
|Department of Energy||2. To help ensure that important decisions about the FutureGen program reflect an adequate knowledge of the potential costs, benefits, and risks of viable options, and to promote the attainment of the goals of the program while protecting taxpayer interests, the Secretary of Energy should consider the results of the comprehensive analysis and base any decisions that would alter the original FutureGen on the most advantageous mix of costs, benefits, and risks resulting from implementing a combination of the options that have been evaluated.|