More than 200 coal-based generating plants are scheduled to shut down in the next three to five years, representing 31,000 MW of electric generating capacity, due in part to regulations issued by the EPA, according to an analysis released this week by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
The closures, which are spread across 25 states, are equivalent to shutting down the electricity supply of Ohio, the coal industry group said. Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina are expected to see the most closures, with a total of 103 coal units scheduled to shut down, according to the analysis.
An estimated $70 to $180 billion will be invested in new power plants or pollution controls for existing facilities, according to a separate study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The report, “Coal Retirements and the CHP Investment Opportunity,” says utilities could use combined heat and power to replace a substantial portion of the coal-fired electric-generating capacity expected to retire in the near term, more cheaply than could be accomplished with natural gas or nuclear.
Twelve states with the highest concentration of anticipated coal plant closures would particularly benefit from meeting some of that lost capacity with CHP systems, the report said.
CHP systems, which use a single fuel source to concurrently produce electricity and thermal energy, capture waste heat and put it to use, such as by generating steam used in manufacturing processes. A typical new natural gas-powered CHP system can generate electricity at a cost of 6 cents per kWh, while the cost of a new traditional natural gas-powered plant or nuclear-powered plant can range from 6.9 to 11.2 cents per kWh, the report said.
The report calls for state policymakers and regulators to implement policies that allow utilities to earn a rate of return on CHP, like they do with other capital investments, in order to encourage investments in CHP systems.
President Obama last month signed an executive order that sets a national goal of 40 GW of new combined heat and power by the end of 2020, in an effort to accelerate investments in industrial energy efficiency, saving manufacturers at least $100 billion in energy costs over the next decade.
Meeting the President’s 40 GW CHP goal would mean $40 billion to $80 billion of new capital investment in American manufacturing facilities, according to the White House. The Obama Administration says the investments in industrial energy efficiency, including CHP, incur as little as half the cost of traditional forms of new baseload power.