Apparently the EPA has decided to move forward under its own authority to regulate carbon emissions for new power plants — according to an article in yesterday’s New York Times. The emission standards are said to be 1000 lbs CO2 or new natural gas plants and 1100 lbs CO2 for new coal plants, both per MWh (1000 kWh) of electricity generated.
If you work through the numbers for natural gas that mean that the natural gas plant must be 40% efficient. This is more efficient than many existing peaking generators in the midwest, but certainly attainable with current technology. Therefore I think this is a reasonable standard for new natural gas plants.
But new coal plants will not be able to attain this standard through efficiency — they instead will have to capture and store CO2 — and frankly such technology is not demonstrated and available at this level. Therefore this standard essentially means that no new coal plants will be able to meet the standard for many years to come.
More worrisome is what will be next for existing natural gas and coal plants. How many years before the EPA extends these regulations to existing plants?