The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a revised forecast for coal-fired electric power plant retirements in its ‘The Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014)’.
The new projections revealed that a total of 60GW of coal-fired power capacity will be retired by 2020 as against the previously projected 43GW in the US.
The increase in the capacity retirements has been attributed to the Mercury & Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and rise of cost competitive natural gas.
MATS rules require all coal-fired plants to reduce a significant amount of mercury emissions, acid gases, and toxic metals in addition to installing expensive scrubbers to reduce toxic chemical pollution.
Originally beginning in February 2009, the standards are scheduled to take effect in April 2015 with an option to be extended by up to one year with conditions by state environmental permitting agencies.
Of the total projected capacity, 90% will retire by 2016, coinciding with the first year of enforcement for the standards. Projected figures include retirements above and beyond those reported to the EIA as planned by power plant owners and operators.
All coal-fired power plants are assumed to have installed flue gas desulfurisation equipment (scrubbers) or dry sorbent injection systems by 2016 to comply with MATS.
The US had 1,308 coal-fired generating units totalling 310GW at the end of 2012 and units with a total capacity of 10.2GW or 3.2% of the 2011 total was retired in 2012 alone.
The units for retirement being set over the next ten years are larger and more efficient than previous years’ with 145MW compared to the previous retirement units of 97MW. The average tested heat rate of 10,398 Btu/kWh as against the same in 2010, 2011, or 2012 are smaller with an average tested heat rate of about 10,695 British thermal units per kWh.