For the past three months, millions of Americans on the East Coast have endured constant freezing temperatures, regular deluges of snow, and expensive heating and electric bills. Pulling out all the stops to keep the East Coast’s lights on, utilities and grid operators employed every source of power they could to stave off dangerous brown outs.
Unfortunately, many of the coal-fired power plants that kept the East Coast running are being forced to shutter their doors due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. In early January, around 75 percent of Southern Company’s coal power plants scheduled to retire were called upon to generate electricity. The Tennessee Valley Authority set new records for electricity demand at the same time that nearly 20 of its coal-fired generating facilities are scheduled for retirement.
With 300 units and 44,295 megawatts of coal-fired electricity going offline due to EPA policies, case studies and anecdotes abound about the vacuum that will be left in their absence. Prohibitive EPA regulations banning new coal power plants from being constructed mean that this void will be filled with natural gas electricity. Although the shale revolution has brought previously unthinkable amounts of natural gas to market, the recent cold snap illustrates how depending on one energy source is precarious policy.
- On March 6, 2014