By Timothy Cama - 05/22/15 11:12 AM EDT
Shutdowns of coal-fired power plants would more than double under the Obama administration’s landmark climate rule, a federal analysis found.
The rule is also projected to increase electricity prices 4.9 percent above what they would be without it.
That is more than double the 40 gigawatts that the EIA, the independent data arm of the Energy Department, predicted would be shut down in that time period if it weren’t for the climate rule. The United States currently has 1,212 coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 329.8 gigawatts.
The report could provide new evidence for opponents of the rule such as Republicans and fossil fuel interests. They have argued that the Obama administration would significantly raise electricity costs, close numerous power plants and kill the jobs of the people working there and in related fields.
Nearly all of the plant shutdowns would happen by 2020, the year of the first set of standards in the EPA’s rule. Another standard takes effect in 2030.
“Switching from coal-fired generation to natural gas-fired generation is the predominant compliance strategy as implementation begins, with renewables playing a growing role in the mid-2020s and beyond,” the EIA said in its analysis.
Complying with the rule would require a “significant investment in electric transmission system infrastructure to integrate renewables from remote areas,” the agency said.
Those investments, among other costs, would increase electricity prices 4.9 percent in 2020, 4 percent in 2030 and 2.6 percent in 2040, all in comparison to a situation without the rule.
The EIA also warned of potential reliability problems from moving more toward renewable energy sources, which are mostly intermittent in nature.
It's the first comprehensive report on the EPA rule from a government entity other than the EPA.
An industry-commissioned report from Nera Economic Consulting found last year that the rule could cost at least $366 billion over 15 years, and could cost businesses and consumers $41 billion annually.
The Nera study said the rule would shutter at least 45 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp. concluded that the rule could harm grid reliability.