Without the Clean Power Plan, coal is projected to again become the dominant fuel used in U.S. electricity generation and remain in that position through 2032, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 makes projections on which fuels will be used for U.S. electricity generation. The Clean Power Plan is a rule the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued in 2015, but the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its enforcement in February 2016. “Without the Clean Power Plan, there is less incentive to switch from carbon-intensive coal to less carbon-intensive natural gas or carbon-free fuels such as wind and solar,” according to the EIA. By 2019, coal will become the “leading source of electricity generation.” Even with the Clean Power Plan, coal is expected to again become the most used fuel, but without the plan, it will remain the dominate fuel for much longer.
Also without the plan, “electricity generation from renewable sources remains below coal-fired electricity generation through 2040,” according to the EIA. “Fewer coal plants are retired, and as a result, natural gas and renewable capacity additions are lower compared” to if the plan were in place.
The price of natural gas is also an important factor in how the United States produces its electricity. In one case in the Annual Energy Outlook, the projection is that prices will remain near existing levels through 2040 as extraction costs fall and more resources become available. But in another case, on the opposite end of the spectrum, natural gas prices rise to the levels reached in the mid-2000s by 2040.