Will EPA rules Lead to Power Outages?

The GAO, an independent gov’t watchdog agency, is forecasting serious problems as a result of the latest round of EPA regulations, requiring lower pollution and greater efficiency from power plants around the nations. Coal-fired plants cannot keep pace with the regulations. The forecast is that 13% of the nation’s coal-based power plants may be forced to shut down, dropping the supply of electricity dramatically.

GAO Report: “According to GAO’s analysis of public data, power companies now plan to retire a greater percentage of coal-fueled generating capacity and retrofit less capacity with environmental controls than the estimates GAO reported in July 2012. About 13 percent of coal-fueled generating capacity — 42,192 megawatts (MW) — has either been retired since 2012 or is planned for retirement by 2025, which exceeds the estimates of 2 to 12 percent of capacity that GAO reported in 2012 (see fig.). The units that power companies have retired or plan to retire are generally older, smaller, more polluting and not used extensively, with some exceptions. For example, some larger generating units are also planned for retirement. In addition, the capacity is geographically concentrated in four states: Ohio (14 percent), Pennsylvania (11 percent), Kentucky (7 percent), and West Virginia (6 percent).”

That figure, 42,192 megawatts is 42 gigawatts. Coal-fired power plants supply 37 percent of the nation’s power. Thirty-seven percent! Not every power plant runs at full capacity. But there is no way for the other plants to absorb that much lost capacity. Something has to give.

And the news is worse for certain States. Ohio may lose 5.9 GW of power; PA may lose about 4.6 GW. Almost 70% of Ohio’s power comes from coal [Source]. You might think that consumers in other States will be better off. But that’s not necessarily true. It is a common, even daily, occurrence for a power company in one State to buy power from a plant in another State. The nation’s power grid is not isolated by State. It’s a set of dominoes, so if a few States have a major reduction in electrical capacity, many other States will be affected. If Congress or the President do not act, the nation could see brown-outs, rolling blackouts, and possibly more serious problems with the power grid.

A storm can knock-out power for days, possibly a few weeks. But politics can cause problems with the power grid that last much longer. Eventually, we prepper’s run out of batteries and “snap lights”. A lap top or cell phone can be charged from a small solar panel. But running your whole home on solar or wind is expensive and very tricky to set up. We might have to get used to life with an unreliable and intermittent power grid.

– Thoreau

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