Less Power Plants to Shut Down in Texas

Three years ago, the already financially beleaguered Energy Future Holdings (EFH), formerly TXU, declared that it would shut down two units at its Monticello plant, located near Mount Pleasant in Texas. The shut down was supposed to be temporary only, and the plants will be back up after 6 or 7 months. Ostensibly, the reason given by EFH for the shut down was that the plants were no longer profitable, as electricity prices were very low at that time. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) gave its approval, saying that the electricity supply in Texas would still be sufficient even without those two plants. In truth, EFH's coal-fired power plants are already aging, and even without the electricity price factor, those plants are still in danger of closing down because of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

When EFH made the announcement on shutting down two of its power plants, it may have jumped the gun on EPA. EPA rules on carbon emission generally impact power plants, as these facilities are considered to be the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions.

Recent news indicate, however, that revisions on EPA regulations may result to less power plants needing to shut down. In November last year, ERCOT predicted that about half of its coal-fired power plants fleet would need to be shut down just to be able to meet EPA regulations. The forecast also brought with it some concerns about Texas not having enough electricity generation capacity.

With revisions in the EPA rules, the new ERCOT forecast indicates that about 4,000 megawatts of coal-fired power would need to shut down. The expected closure would only amount to around 6% of the state's total electricity generation capacity. With the growth of the wind and solar energy industries, an increase in electricity generation from renewable resources would make it easier for Texas to meet EPA standards.

Under the revised rules published in August this year, Texas would need to cut emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. The original proposal was 39%. This would allow many coal-fired plants to continue operating. 

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