Coal Plant Shutdowns Threaten Blackouts
February 28, 2012
As utility companies face new deadlines for coal-fired power plants to comply with tight new EPA clean air regulations, many energy suppliers have plans to shutter plants that employ thousands of IBEW members rather than invest in costly upgrades.
If thousands of megawatts are suddenly taken off-line, this could trigger massive electricity shortages, just as demand is expected to increase, according to a regional transmission organization report.
A report from PJM, a regional transmission organization covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, estimates that 18,000 megawatts of electricity will be lost to the power grid due to expected coal plant shutdowns. That’s the loss of enough power to light and heat 18 million homes.
Says IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter:
The EPA’s latest standards for mercury and toxic pollutants are the product of a court order that goes back to the Bush administration, which failed to enforce prior regulations. The standards are accompanied by three-year deadlines that should be revisited, say union and company leaders. More regulations are expected to be issued soon.
The IBEW is supporting a bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) to delay implementation of the EPA rule on cross-state air pollution by three years and the controls over mercury and toxins by two years. The measure coordinates both rules since the pollution control equipment is the same to achieve compliance for each.
Coal-fired power plants supply 46 percent of U.S. energy needs. So the EPA’s deadlines and decisions by utility companies to take coal plants off-line won’t just affect the jobs of men and women in those plants and their surrounding communities. New projections by companies and regulators responsible for power transmission confirm fears that premature shutdowns could lead to rolling blackouts, threatening even more jobs and economic recovery.
Predictions are never precise, says Hunter, but policymakers should listen to the voices of the men and women who work around the clock to supply power to their communities. He says:
Prior to PJM’s study, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation released a 10-year projection of U.S. electrical power production, which said:
America’s thirst for energy to power our appliances, homes and businesses is growing despite the economic recession, says Hunter. While the EPA has greater legal authority than most agencies responsible for the delivery of reliable electric power, Hunter says:
International President Edwin D. Hill says the Obama administration has made important strides in the president’s goal of an “all of the above” energy policy that includes licensing the first new nuclear reactor in many years and increased incentives for developing renewable and domestic fossil fuel sources.
IBEW members across North America, says Hill, are hard at work on large-scale wind and solar power projects to boost our nations’ renewable energy portfolio to reduce pollution and global warming. But, he says: