Coal, nuclear power plant retirements to affect emissions

Accelerated retirements in either the nuclear power generation sector or coal-fired power generation sector would have an impact on projections for carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

Accelerated coal-fired power plant retirement would reduce project carbon dioxide emissions, while advanced nuclear power generation retirement would slightly increase projected carbon emissions.


EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 features several accelerated retirement cases representing conditions leading to additional coal and nuclear plant retirements. Natural gas and renewable energy sources are the primary replacements for lost capacity in each scenario.

An acceleration of coal-fired power generation retirement would lead to a 19 percent increase in natural gas generation relative to the EIA’s reference case in 2040 and decrease emissions by 20 percent relative to the reference case, according to the EIA. The additional coal-fired generation retirements would also result in a 10 percent increase in renewable generation relative to the reference case.

In the accelerated nuclear retirements case, CO2 emissions are 4 percent higher than the reference case. Natural gas-fired generation is projected to be 13 percent higher than in the reference case in 2040, and renewable generation would increase 5 percent relative to the reference case.

Emissions are slightly higher in the combined accelerated coal and nuclear retirements case than in the accelerated coal retirements case because natural gas-fired generation replaces some nuclear power generation. The effect of the coal-fired capacity retirements still keeps emissions 14 percent below the reference case level in 2040, however.

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