Current and pending EPA power plant regulations could cost the US economy up to $275 billion between 2010 and 2035 if the regulatory timeline is followed, according to updated findings from the Electric Power Research Institute.
However, power companies could save the economy about $100 billion over that same time period if the EPA were to make regulations more flexible, the EPRI said.
The findings were part of the EPRI’s “The Value of Innovation in Environmental Controls,” an expanded strategic analysis of key technology, market and policy uncertainties confronting the existing US coal-based generation fleet over the next few decades, including proposed regulations and the long-term price of natural gas.
The analysis, which updates preliminary finding released by EPRI in May, suggests giving power plants some flexibility and more time to meet regulations would achieve the same level of environmental compliance while reducing the financial burden on utilities.
The summary report describes three scenarios for current, proposed and potential regulations and estimates control technology costs on a unit-by-unit basis for each of the country’s 1,100 coal-fired units, which generate an estimated 317 GW.
Coal-based power plants must comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards by 2015. The EPA also has proposed regulations that would reduce the amount of water used to cool generating facilities and regulate how coal ash is stored.
Under the current or reference case scenario, about 227 GW of existing coal-fired capacity would remain financially viable and up to 57 GW would either be retired or converted to another fuel source. The continued operation of the remaining 28 GW of generating capacity would be in question.
Under the EPRI’s flexible solution, 288 GW of coal generation could remain in operation and about 36 GW would be retired or changed to burn different fuels.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity released an analysis last month that said 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.