* EPA regs could cost power sector $80 billion
* Retirements depend on gas prices, severity of rules
* Regulated utilities and coal generators may benefit
NEW YORK, Dec 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations could cost the industry more than $80 billion and force up to 70,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants to retire over the next several years, investment bank FBR Capital Markets aid in a research report Monday.
Before even considering the potential effect of possible government efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to combat global warming, the report forecast coal retirements would likely reach 45,000 MW, including 12,000 MW already announced.
But, FBR, of Arlington, Virginia, said the number of retirements could vary between 30,000 MW and 70,000 MW depending in part on natural gas prices and the severity of proposed emissions reduction rules.
FBR said utilities would likely install emissions control equipment in larger coal plants, representing about 60,000 MW of capacity, and replace smaller units with natural gas-fired combined cycle gas turbines.
One megawatt powers about 1,000 U.S. homes.
While the EPA regulations will cost billions, regulated utilities are poised to benefit from the stricter rules.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)