Monday, August 02, 2010

Less Power More Control

The EPA under rules developed during a Republican administration has a plan that will shut down up to 20% of the coal fired electrical plants in the nation.

In March 2005 the federal EPA issued two new rulings that mandate significant reductions in air pollution and mercury pollution. These federal regulatory requirements will have significant impact on utilities in the US. The timeframe for these emission reductions will take place in two phases with the first phase occurring during the next five years and the second phase being completed within the next twelve years.
And the rules for the first phase will do what exactly?
Some plants could have a hard time meeting the proposed cap, which could push domestic cement production into countries with even less stringent environmental standards, said Andy O’Hare, vice president of regulatory affairs with the Portland Cement Association.

The proposal comes at a down time for the cement industry. Three plants in the Great Lakes region shuttered in December 2008 and January 2009, according to Portland Cement Association records. The Alpena plant announced in March a 45-day kiln shutdown.
Ah. So it is just another plan to ship jobs to China.

But wait. It is not just coal fired cement plants. It is also coal fired power plants.
[The rules] would force utilities to invest tens of millions of dollars on technologies to remove the substances. Many of those plants are about 50 years old and are already inefficient. "Those investments are just not going to be justifiable," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at Ceres, a group of environmentalists and institutional investors.

Francois Broquin, a co-author of reports on coal by Bernstein Research, said the combined rules could push as much as 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired electric generation capacity to retire by 2015. "Obviously that will have an impact," he said.
So where are the shut downs going to be concentrated?
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a new federal plan to reduce the pollution from electric power plants that wafts hundreds of miles across state lines.

The new rule would require pollution reductions in 31 states and the District of Columbia — most of the Eastern half of the U.S., from Texas and Minnesota to the coast.

To make the cuts, power plants would be required to install new equipment or use lower-sulfur fuels.

The plan is one of the most significant steps the EPA has taken toward cleaning the air for millions of Americans who live in areas where the quality of the air doesn't meet national standards.

It comes after many months of planning since a federal court ordered the EPA to revise its 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule . Coincidentally, it was announced in the middle of an Eastern heat wave, when smoggy air was at unhealthy levels from North Carolina to New York state.
So the East Coaster will have no choice. Cleaner air so important to a few (and very important for them) but no air conditioning in the summer for tens of millions. Who ever worked out the political calculations didn't do their homework. Let me add that the East Coast electrical grid infrastructure is not in the best of shape and if the shut downs are concentrated in that area the loss for the area could be much more than 20%. Let me add that with the current grid power does not ship well over distances longer than about 300 or so miles. And if the grid is already congested with power flows from inside the area? Dark energy will be a proven reality.

So how about nuclear power to replace the power that will be lost? Well enviros hate nuke plants. Especially East Coast nukes. They stopped the Shoreham nuke plant. And Vermont Yankee and Indian Point are being targeted.

I wonder what the marginal price of electricity will have to be to make supply and demand come into balance on a hot day on the East Coast? And how are the residents going to feel about it? You would think the California experience would be a cautionary tale for the political classes. You would be wrong.

And in case you hadn't guessed about the title: You get less power. They get more control. All this enviro wackiness is a bubble. And the bubble is going to burst. When it does things are going to get ugly. Attacks on power plants will not go over well.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

1 comment:

Neil said...

Yes, the forced shift to non-coal and non-nuclear sources seems a bit...premature. The grid got a respite with the current recession--power usage actually dropped off a bit, which bought the system a few years' time. I suppose that raising electricity rates (because of the forced adoption of renewable sources) will also reduce the load on the grid. It will be interesting to see whether or not usage drops off faster than the decrease in base-load supply.

What's obviously going to happen is that backup point-source generation will become much more common. The expense of maintaining a personal power source will become cheaper than the reliability issues of the primary grid.