Lost Electricity Generation Capacity 7X Higher Than EPA Estimates

Barbara Hollingsworth | October 9, 2014 | 6:18pm EDT
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Coal-fired power plant near Jewett, Tex. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Power plants generating 72 gigawatts (GW) of electricity in 37 states have either closed or are scheduled to shut their doors to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, according to the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

The loss of generating capacity is “over seven times the amount originally predicted by EPA modeling,” IER’s updated report, released October 7, noted.

“Originally, EPA calculated that only 9.5 GW of electrical generating capacity would close as a result of its MATS (Mercury and Air Toxics Standard) and CSAPR (Cross State Air Pollution Rule) rules,” the report stated.

“Before President Obama’s newly proposed [carbon dioxide] regulations on existing power plants even begin to take effect, however, it is clear that actual number will now be much higher,” the report continued, adding that the closures will take “enough electrical generation capacity to reliably power 44.7 million homes – or every home in every state west of the Mississippi, excluding Texas” off the grid.

Over 94 percent of the closures involve coal-fired power plants, which currently provide one-fifth of the nation’s electricity, even though coal was the only fuel that was able to keep up with the higher demand during last January's polar vortex.

The result will be higher utility prices and lower reliability, IER warned.

“This past winter demonstrated in real time the value of the existing coal fleet. During the winter of 2014, coal was the only fuel with the ability to meet demand increases for electricity, providing 92 percent of incremental electricity in January/February, 2014 versus the same months in 2013,” the IER report stated.

“Americans were harmed as the relentless cold indicated that prudent utility practices require large, baseload coal plants to stabilize the grid, keep society functioning, and maintain electricity availability.”

“An unprecedented amount of planned generation retirements driven largely by environmental regulations... places upward pressure on prices,” according to PJM’s 2015/16 power auction report, which noted that the wholesale cost of electricity will go up next year for its 61 million customers living in 13 Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia.

PJM Interconnection manages 62,566 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in “all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.”

Coal accounts for the majority (41 percent) of the fuel generated for PJM's section of the grid, followed by nuclear (18 percent), natural gas (16 percent), and oil (6 percent).

Last Tuesday, members of the United Mine Workers of America protested the EPA regulations at the agency’s headquarters in Washington because they said closure of the coal-powered power plants will decimate coalfield communities.

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