ERCOT scales back number of expected coal plant closings
New analysis from Texas’ power grid operator predicts that far fewer of the state’s coal plants will need to close to comply with new federal carbon emissions rules than previously expected.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released a report Friday forecasting that about 4,000 megawatts’ worth of coal plants would shut down under the plan. That is a stark decrease from last November, when the agency predicted that almost 9,000 megawatts — about half the state’s total coal fleet — could need to close.
The initial analysis was based on preliminary language in the new carbon rule, proposed by President Barack Obama last year in a move to combat U.S. contributions to climate change. But adjustments made by the Environmental Protection Agency — following heavy lobbying from the coal and power sectors — reduced the “magnitude of the required reductions for Texas,” ERCOT wrote Friday.
The new forecast is not expected to do much to quell heavy opposition to the president’s plan. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has signaled that he plans to file suit to block the new carbon rules, lining up with a coalition of states dependent on coal for electricity.
“It’s going to be litigated,” said John Fainter, president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to operate, and hopefully we’ll continue to gain on being able to meet the [carbon reduction] requirements.”
Earlier this week, the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit activist group, released analysis stating “business as usual” would get Texas 88 percent of the way to meeting the White House goals. The group cited steady growth in renewable energy like solar and wind along with a shift away from coal power already underway, as it struggles to compete with natural gas and wind.