EIA: 70% of U.S. Coal Fleet Is Ready for MATS

At least 70% of U.S. coal-fired generating capacity has already installed environmental control equipment to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) Standards, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports. 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s rule will require coal generators of more than 25 MW to incorporate the maximum achievable control technologies (MACT) to control the emissions of acid gases, toxic metals, and mercury by April 2015. It includes a provision that allows state environmental permitting agencies to grant one-year compliance extensions.

The rule—along with declining power demand and competition from cheap natural gas—is expected to prompt the retirement of at least 60 GW of coal-fired capacity between 2012 and 2020, the EIA has suggested. Since November 2013, a number of utilities have announced new retirements totaling 5.4 GW. These include the Tennessee Valley Authority, which in November said it would retire eight coal units with nearly 3 GW; South Carolina Electric and Gas, which announced it had ceased operations at the 295-MW Canadys Station; Consumers Energy, which petitioned Michigan state regulators to approve a bond to cover costs to decommission and demolish three coal plants; Energy Capital Partners, which announced closure of the 1-GW Brayton Point plant; and Georgia Power, which said it planned to file a request with the Georgia Public Service Commission to decertify the 155-MW Unit 3 at its Mitchell generating facility.

About 8% of the U.S. coal fleet has announced plans to retire. But the EIA also asserts that 69% already complies with MATS using flue gas desulfurization and 1% has installed dry sorbent injection, which will allow their operation past 2016. Another 6% is expected to add control equipment. About 16% are faced with the decision of upgrading or retiring their plants.

An overwhelming majority of future power plants will be fueled by natural gas, the EIA suggested. In 2013, more than 50% of new utility-scale generation were natural gas-fired power plants. About 22% were solar, 11% were coal (including the 937-MW Sandy Creek Energy Station in Texas and the 571-MW Edwardsport plant in Indiana), and 8% were wind. Almost half of all capacity—a little over 13,500 MW—added was located in California.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)