NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA's Deadline For NOx Emissions Could Cause Power Shortages

August 14, 1998

A new study concludes the electric power industry in the United States cannot meet electricity demands and comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions at the same time. The EPA wants to require utilities in 22 states to cut NOx emissions by as much as 85 percent by 2003 to reduce pollution generated in the Midwest and transported downwind throughout the Northeast.

The study by Applied Economic Research for the Utility Air Resources Group, a coalition of Midwest and Southern utilities, assumes most utilities will need to install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to meet EPA targets.

  • It can take as long as 14 weeks to retrofit an emission unit with SCR, and industry sources say plants need to be shut down while it is installed.
  • Even if the retrofits are done as planned in the spring and fall, when demand is relatively low, so many units need to be taken off-line that the industry will not be able to satisfy electricity demands in the Midwest.
  • The study estimates generating capacity will not be able to meet almost 4 percent of the region's power demands.
  • Thus from the end of 1999 to spring 2003, the upper Midwest would experience more than 750 hours of "rolling blackouts."

The EPA claims much less SCR retrofitting will be needed, but industry officials want the deadline pushed back. They say the study was based on an actual survey of utilities' engineers -- who specifically said complying with the NOx standard depended on SCR retrofits.

Source: "Utility Industry Report Says EPA NOx Strategy Could Force Power Blackouts," Inside EPA, August 14, 1998.


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