The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is readying a regulatory sweep targeting more stringent limits on traditional pollutants that could accelerate coal power plant closures. A coal trade group estimates that even without new rules, 86 GW of coal generation is slated to retire by 2030.
While the U.S. Supreme Court in June curtailed the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, the EPA is working on other rules in “an integrated and coordinated approach” that will allow the agency to tackle “threats” posed by power plants to clean air, safe water, and healthy land, EPA Administrator Michael Regan has said.
The EPA chief recently told Reuters the agency remains undeterred by the Supreme Court’s constraints. “We want to present the industry with a suite of regulations so that they can make the best long-term investments possible,” the news agency quoted Regan as saying on July 29. “The power sector will … look at the cost benefit of complying with those and more than likely stay with the conclusion that … clean energy is more cost effective for them and for their customers,” he reportedly said.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), at the end of 2021, the U.S. had 1,144 GW of total utility-scale electricity generating capacity. About 18% (206 GW) was coal-fired, accounting for about 22% of total utility-scale electricity generation. The EIA estimates that 15 GW of new utility-scale electric generating capacity came online in the U.S during the first half of 2022, and another 29 GW will be added in the second half of the year. More than a third of new additions were wind generators, followed by natural gas, solar, and battery storage.
However, about 15.1 GW of electric generating capacity is also scheduled to retire during 2022, and 8.8 GW was already retired in the first half of the year. The bulk of these (76%) are coal-fired power plants, followed by natural gas (12%) and nuclear (9%).
The largest U.S. coal power plant retirements in 2022 include the 1,305-MW William H. Zimmer plant in Ohio, which retired in May, and the 1,205-MW Morgantown Generating Station in Maryland, which retired in June. In addition, the 769-MW Palisades nuclear power facility in Michigan retired in June.