- The planned retirement of 140 small aging coal plants in the Midwest and South will only cut U.S. CO2 emissions about 4%, according to a USA Today analysis, because none of them is among the top 100 emissions generators and only 12, according to 2013 federal data, are among the 475 coal plants that make up the top 10% of emitters.
- The top 100 emitters are only 2% of generating units but, because they are all coal plants, produce 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions, while the top 10% of emitters, 475 mostly coal units, produce 69% of U.S. power plant emissions, suggesting that getting to the EPA’s newly targeted 30% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 will require a far greater switch to natural gas and renewable power.
- EIA data shows coal plants’ 21% generation reduction since 2005 has cut coal’s portion of U.S. power plant emissions 21% and helped cut overall U.S. emissions 10% in that period, suggesting the one best way for bigger reductions is closing down more of the coal generation that produces 75% of plant emissions.
The top 100 sources of emissions, and 25% of greenhouse gases, are mostly in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama and Georgia while retirements scheduled to happen by 2021 are mostly in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama and West Virginia.
Plant by plant closure decisions will rest on the price of natural gas and EPA rules. It could cost less to shutter than to retrofit plants which are on average 42 years old and represent 73% to 95% of all coal capacity. The EPA report said a switch to alternatives could eliminate 27% of coal’s emissions by 2020, twice what would be cut without the new emissions rules.
Because old coal is often the cheapest source of electricity, EPA expects coal plants will still produce 30% of U.S. electricity in 2030, down from 52% in 2000 and 37% in 2012. EPA projected emissions reductions would cost 35,000 to 38,000 full-time coal jobs by 2030 but add over 100,000 jobs in the energy-efficiency sector.