Coal and nuclear power plant retirements to impact carbon emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions in the coming decades are likely to depend largely on how many coal and nuclear power plants are retired, the Energy Information Administration said.

Accelerating nuclear plant retirements would increase carbon emissions in the next three decades while speeding retirements of coal plants would lower emissions, EIA said Monday. They would partially cancel each other out of both kinds of plants were retired quickly.

Carbon emissions would be 4 percent higher with increased nuclear shutdowns in 2040 when compared with the normal plant retirement cycle. That’s largely because the nuclear capacity — which has no emissions — would be replaced with a 13 percent growth in natural gas power and a 5 percent increase in renewable energy.

Natural gas would see a 19 percent increase by 2040 if coal power plants were shut down early, while renewables would grow 10 percent, EIA said. Emissions would drop 20 percent, though, because natural gas emits less than coal.

Emissions fall only 14 percent in EIA’s projection if both coal and nuclear plants were put on an accelerated retirement cycle.