How Do We Wean a Coal-Power Addiction Without China?
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- Feb 5, 2021 11:23 am GMTFeb 4, 2021 10:18 pm GMT
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Coal, historically the longest-used source of fuel for generating electricity, has been under withering fire in the U.S. for more than a decade as the single largest source of both carbon and criteria pollutants in the power sector. Admittedly, its share of the generation market has decreased substantially, starting with the plunge in natural gas prices that began in June 2008, when the Henry Hub spot price was $12.69 per MMBU, falling in August 2009 to $2.99, and currently at $2.71 according to the US EIA.
Piled on top of this sustained commodity market change were new federal clean air rules, including the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), updated in 2017, requiring certain eastern states to reduce pollution from upwind states in order to maintain National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, also enacted in 2011, replaced the previous, court-vacated Clean Air Mercury Rule, setting federal air pollution limits that individual coal- and oil-fired electric generating units (EGUs) with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater must meet by 2015. It required many generators to invest in and install wet and dry scrubbers, dry sorbent injection systems, activated carbon injection systems, and fabric filters. And the Clean Power Plan (CPP) was unveiled in 2015, requiring a reduction of carbon emissions from electricity generation of 32% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. The Trump administration’s EPA challenged the rule and tried to replace it with the so-called Affordable Clean Energy Rule, while staying the CPP. But on January 19, 2021, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled the Affordable Clean Energy Rule violated the Clean Air Act but did not reinstate the Clean Power Plan, punting the matter into the hands of the new Biden Administration.