Discussion Paper

Regulating Greenhouse Gases from Coal Power Plants under the Clean Air Act

Feb 19, 2013 | Joshua Linn, Erin Mastrangelo, Dallas Burtraw


The Clean Air Act has assumed the central role in US climate policy, directing the development of regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. This paper examines the operation of coal-fired generating units over 25 years to estimate the marginal costs and potential magnitude of emissions reductions from improving their efficiency. We find that a 10 percent increase in coal prices causes a 0.2 to 0.5 percent heat rate reduction, broadly consistent with engineering assessments. We also find that coal prices have a significant effect on utilization. The results are used to compare cost-effectiveness of alternative policies.