"From 1990 to 2009, the net capacity of the U.S. coal-fired power plant fleet remained virtually unchanged, increasing by only 7 Gigawatts (MW) or 2.5% during the entire 17-year period. The output of these plants increased from 1990 to 2007 before falling in 2009. This means that although the existing fleet was not growing in size, plants were being run more intensively. This is reflected in the average capacity factor of the fleet, which rose from 59% to 74% from 1990 to 2007, then fell to 64% in 2009. (Capacity factor refers to the ratio of the actual output of a plant to the theoretical maximum output if the plant ran continuously.)"
Thus, we are approaching our limits. Soon we will have to open new power plants to meet our increasing demand. From a policy perspective, raising your hand to build a new power plant, coal, nuclear, or otherwise, is seldom met with more approval than opening a new landfill. Rather than open new plants, we have some interesting alternatives, including making improvements in our efficiency, which allows us to tap a source known by some in the community as "negawatts". CFLs were a great help in mining the vast available negawatt cache. There are more efficiencies to be discovered and we believe X-Lint is a strong, common-sense example of a pocket of negawatts to be mined immediately.
Again, from Sourcewatch:
"2010 Report: New EPA regulations could make old coal plants prohibitively expensive
According to the 2010 report "Impact of EPA Rules on Power Markets," by Credit Suisse, tougher federal air pollution rules that will be coming in the next few years could prompt electricity companies to close as many as 1 in every 5 coal-burning power plants in America, primarily facilities more than 40 years old that lack emissions controls.
The regulations being crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expected to go into force in April and November 2011 in accordance with the Clean Air Act, are aimed at reducing mercury, acid rain, and smog-forming emissions from utility smokestacks. The study found that the EPA rules, combined with a recent drop in the price of natural gas, could over the next four to five years cause the utility industry to accelerate retirement of old coal-fired power plants rather than spend to upgrade the plants' emissions controls.
After expected emissions upgrades, the coal fleet will continue to have plants, producing about 103,000 megawatts, that are still "lacking any major emission controls," the study says. The oldest, smallest coal plants with few emissions controls make up an "at-risk" of closure portion that account for about 20 percent of total US coal-fired generating capacity, or 69,000 megawatts. The cost to cut sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury emissions could run $50 billion to $70 billion, not counting the oldest plants. Upgrading those would cost another $80 billion to $110 billion."