Bloomberg BNA Analysis of Coal-Fired Power Shows a Utility Sector at a Crossroads

Arlington, Va. (June 2012) - Coal-fired power plants are at a crossroads, according to a Bloomberg BNA analysis looking at the future of coal as a source of energy that appears as a five-part series in Daily Environment Report June 25-29.

Electric utilities are facing economic and regulatory pressures that make it nearly impossible for some of the oldest coal plants to continue operating, and it remains an open question whether any new coal-fired units will be built, Bloomberg BNA reports.

The pressure is coming from the domestic boom in low-cost natural gas tied to hydraulic fracturing and from a series of environmental regulations that will require coal-fired utilities to make substantial investments in pollution controls.

The  series, which also will run in Daily Report for Executives, World Climate Change Report,  and Environment Reporter, looks at the state of coal-fired power plants, the economic and regulatory influences on the power sector, and the future for coal.

Monday: Low natural gas prices are putting pressure on coal-fired plants to retire, and the trend is accelerating due to EPA rules.

Tuesday: Natural gas plants are expected to increase their contribution to the energy mix, as older coal-fired plants retire, and utilities face the prospect of installing expensive controls at plants that remain.

Wednesday: Limitations of current technology will make it nearly impossible for new coal-fired power plants to meet EPA's mercury and air toxics standards and the proposed greenhouse gas standards, experts say.

Thursday: A battle is brewing in the Pacific Northwest between community and environmental groups and coal companies eager to capitalize on Asia's hunger for energy.

Friday: If there is a true bright spot for coal in the future, it lies in Asia, where U.S. forecasters estimate that China's coal use for power generation will more than double by 2035.

The series was reported and written by Bloomberg BNA staff reporters Andrew Childers and Jessica Coomes, staff correspondent Paul Shukovsky in Seattle, and special correspondents Michael Standaert in Shenzhen, China, and Madhur Singh in New Delhi. It is available directly from Bloomberg BNA and on the Bloomberg Law legal research system and Bloomberg Professional service.

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