Feb 19, 2014 - 10:00am

Almost 20% of Coal-Fired Electricity Generation Will Shut Down Because of One EPA Regulation


Senior Editor, Digital Content

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Tennessee Valley Authority Paradise Fossil Plant in Paradise, Kentucky. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.
Coal power plant
Tennessee Valley Authority Paradise Fossil Plant in Paradise, Kentucky. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

As a major threat to reliable, affordable electricity, EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations have garnered the most attention lately. But it’s not the only one. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule will lead to the retirement of 54 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired electricity generating capacity by 2016, and with a total of 60 gigawatts lost by 2020:

Coal-fired power plants are subject to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which require significant reductions in emissions of mercury, acid gases, and toxic metals. The standards are scheduled to take effect in April 2015, a deadline that is conditionally allowed to be extended by up to one year by state environmental permitting agencies. Projected retirements of coal-fired generating capacity in the AEO2014 include retirements above and beyond those reported to EIA as planned by power plant owners and operators. In these projections, 90% of the coal-fired capacity retirements occur by 2016, coinciding with the first year of enforcement for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

To put this into perspective, as of 2012, there was approximately 310 GW of coal-fired electrical generating capacity available to power our economy and heat our homes. So roughly one-fifth will be shut down by MATS, making electricity production more dependent on other energy sources. Less energy diversity will make the electrical grid less reliable and more vulnerable to price spikes, especially during unseasonable weather like this winter's cold snaps.

[H/t Lachlan Markey at the Washington Free Beacon]

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About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.