Report: Economics Don’t Make Sense for the Nation’s Costliest Coal-Fired Units

A new report says many of the nation’s coal-fired power plants won’t be competitive once they’re upgraded with pollution controls.

The report was produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and it’s basically an economic analysis of the nation’s coal-fired power plants. The researchers used publicly-available data to calculate the cost of operating each coal plant, and if the plants didn’t already have modern pollution controls they added on the cost of installing them.

So a coal generator passed our test if after being upgraded with modern pollution controls as needed, the power it produced was cheaper than the cost to operate a natural gas plant,” said report co-author Jeff Deyette. “If it was more expensive, then it failed our test and we therefore listed it as ripe for retirement.”

The report estimates there are already 288 coal-fired units scheduled for retirement (as of May 2012), and there are as many as 353 additional units that the study says should be retired for economic reasons. If all of these coal plants were closed, the report says it would cut carbon dioxide emissions anywhere from 245 million tons to 410 million tons annually.

Steven Frenkel is another co-author. He says the organization isn’t calling for the outright closure of the plants that failed the test.

What we’re saying is that regulators and the utilities that they regulate should fully and fairly evaluate the full economic realities facing every coal generator that would likely need to be modernized,” he said.

The report estimates Indiana has as many as 16 aging coal-fired units that don’t make economic sense to continue to run, and Kentucky has up to 10.

Read the full report here.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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