Utility companies operating most of the U.S.’s power plants are not widely adopting an expensive technology promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clamp down on carbon dioxide emissions, E&E News reported Tuesday.
Most of the country’s 10 largest utilities companies have not yet made plans to roll out the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology within the timeframe the EPA has set, even as the Biden administration has made available tax credits and other subsidies to incentivize CCS deployment, according to E&E News. The EPA touts “carbon capture” technology as an effective means to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 90% by 2038, a standard it would in effect impose upon coal- and gas-fired power plants with a May 2023 emissions proposed rule.
CCS technology theoretically reduces carbon emissions by capturing, compressing and then burying the emissions or using them for manufacturing, according to the International Energy Agency. The EPA promotes CCS technology as a way to substantially reduce emissions while minimizing the chances that their rules force conventional power plants into retirement, according to its website.
The electricity that power plants retrofitted with CCS technology produce can cost up to twice as much as current alternatives, according to a March 2023 report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
“This is an industry that is not generally incentivized to work with emerging technologies,” Emily Sanford Fisher of the Edison Electric Institute said, according to E&E News. The technology has not yet developed at the scale that would be necessary “in order for the industry to rely on it in a really substantial way,” she added.
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“One of the challenges with CCS is to make it economically viable at a large scale,” Scott Blake of the Ohio-based utility company American Electric Power said, according to E&E News. “Regulatory and economic factors” have contributed to the slow uptake of CCS technology in American plants, Blake added, according to E&E News.
Various utilities companies have cancelled five CCS installation projects in the past 15 years, according to E&E News.
Coal-fired power plants would have until 2040 to either implement the technology or shut down under its emissions reduction rule, according to the EPA. The agency estimates that the emissions rule and CCS push will cost the power industry between $10 billion and $14 billion.
Of the seven total CCS projects undertaken so far by the country’s 10 largest utilities companies, only three attempts operated without direct government subsidy, according to E&E News. Numerous energy sector experts have said that the EPA’s plan to rely on CCS installation will likely prove to be ineffective, uneconomical or both.
The EPA’s proposed rule is aligned with President Joe Biden’s goals of making the American power sector reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 and the overall economy reach net-zero by 2050.
Biden boasted that “you’re not going to see anybody building a new coal-fired plant in America” because “it’s too expensive,” just weeks after a leading power grid regulator for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission warned of potentially “catastrophic consequences” if the U.S. does not stop inducing premature coal-fired plant retirements.
The EPA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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