Without sensible federal and state policies, a reliable electricity supply will be a thing of the past, and the prospect of rolling blackouts will increase. Bad policies are forcing reliable, coal-fired power plants to retire prematurely. So far, 40 percent of the nation’s coal fleet has retired and, coincidentally, 40 percent of Kentucky’s coal plants have retired too.
Coal plants are one of our most dependable electricity sources because they store fuel onsite and are not dependent on wind or the sun which cannot generate power 24/7. Besides being less dependable than coal, replacement energy sources cannot be deployed fast enough to compensate for coal retirements.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule is one of the worst of the policies threatening grid reliability. The rule would require coal plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. However, the rule is based, in part, on the use of expensive carbon capture technology that needs further development to lower its cost before it can be installed to reduce power plant emissions. This leaves coal plants with little choice except to retire, and more retirements make the proposal a serious threat to electric reliability. The rule is so flawed that impartial energy experts and many states have urged EPA to start over and write a sensible rule that is based on cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions without causing reliability problems. A sensible rule would also allow time for promising low-carbon technologies to develop.
Kentucky cannot risk the consequences of having almost half of its electricity supply shut down within the next six years by EPA’s carbon rule, especially not without adding replacement sources of electricity that are as dependable as coal. Ideally, EPA would listen to electricity experts and write a sensible rule, but the Biden Administration wants to eliminate coal, even though other countries such as China and India are increasing their use of coal. If EPA refuses to rewrite its carbon rule, it will be up to Congress, the courts, or the next Administration to make sure the lights stay on in Kentucky.