GAO: More coal power plants to retire than previously thought

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) increased the amount of coal-fired power plants that it estimates will be retired by 2025.

The GAO, which serves as a watchdog for Congress, said Monday that the most current data points to 13 percent of 2012’s coal-fueled electric generating capacity being retired by 2025, due to environmental regulations, increase competition from falling natural gas prices and decreasing demand for electricity.

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In 2012, the GAO had predicted that 2 percent to 12 percent of coal capacity would retire in that time period. The new estimate represents 42,192 megawatts of capacity.

GAO predicted that about three quarters of the retirements will happen before the end of 2015. That’s because the first round of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, restricting emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants, will kick in in April.

“This level of retirements is significantly more retirements than have occurred in the past,” the GAO said. Only 13,786 megawatts of coal capacity was retired between 2000 and 2011, it said.

The retirement predictions were meant to illustrate that federal officials and the power sector have to be vigilant about ensuring that EPA regulations do not harm electricity reliability.

“While widespread reliability concerns are not anticipated, some regions may face reliability challenges including challenges associated with increasing reliance on natural gas,” the agency said.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: 'Not a fan of governing by tweet' How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE (R-Alaska) said the findings “should renew and reinforce our concerns about the impacts that new federal rules could have on electric reliability.”