EPA Could Eliminate 55 Gigawatts of Coal Power With Regulations

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By far the greatest threat coal poses is to future climate.  But even regulations that only seek to reduce its more immediate health threats could cut coal plants in the US by 20%, according to a report from coal industry consulting firm The Brattle Group, via Electricity Forum.

Even aside from regulations specifically to lower greenhouse gas emissions, if the EPA mandates further reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulates, mercury and other harmful emissions by 2015, 40 to 55 Gigawatts will likely be retired.

Another  11-12 Gigawatts would be shut down, if cooling towers are required, with 75% of the reduction coming from the oldest, dirtiest coal plants, that are mostly in the Midwest.

New mandates in combination would reduce the number of coal power plants by about 20%. This would be even without greenhouse gas regulation.

To replace coal power from the oldest dirtiest plants, natural gas power plant conversions would likely increase.

However, since 2009, renewable energy and particularly wind power has been the fastest growing new power on the grid.

The Recovery Act is responsible, with one provision in particular, Section 1603 cash grants covering 30% of the project costs for companies and organizations  unable to take a tax credit.

At this rate, we could replace coal with 60 Gigawatts of wind by 2020:
According to Clean Energy States, as of early 2010, wind has received 87% of the nearly $3.6 billion in Section 1603 cash grants that were awarded in 2009, and the tax provision was responsible for getting 6.2 Gigawatts of new wind on the grid in its first year.

This and other expiring provisions of The Recovery Act are to be voted on in the final version of the tax bill Monday.

Image: Artist Jason de Caires Taylor

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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