Roughly one in four of the remaining operating coal-fired plants in the U.S. are slated for closure or conversion to natural gas, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Another 17% of the nation’s operating coal plants are uneconomic compared with natural gas-fired generation and could face retirement soon, the report says.
- The UCS report also found that “a significant number” of coal plant are teetering on the edge of competitiveness and could be rendered uncompetitive by even a small increase in costs, such as higher fuel costs or further declines in the costs of renewable resources.
Even as the Trump administration tries to revive its fortunes, coal-fired power is facing mounting challenges.
On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed the repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to cut emissions from power plants.
And the Department of Energy has filed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to come up with a recovery cost for baseload resources such as coal and nuclear generation. But coal plants are still struggling to compete against lower-cost resources, especially new gas-fired generation.
According to the UCS’ study, A Dwindling Role for Coal, more coal plant retirements are coming. Just last week, Luminant announced plans to close its 1,800 MW Monticello coal plant in Titus County, Texas, in January.
The reported noted that coal-fired generation has already fallen from producing 51% of the nation’s electricity in 2008 to 31% in 2016. “Our analysis shows that the transition away from coal over the past decade is poised to continue—thanks primarily to market forces,” Jeremy Richardson, senior energy analyst at UCS and lead author of the analysis, said in a statement.
Coal-fired generation is finding it harder and harder to compete and, the report argues, if the cost of including modern pollution control equipment in factored in, coal is often not economic compared with natural gas generation and, in some cases, renewable energy resources.
Richardson noted this is particularly true in the Southeast where most coal-fired plants operate at a higher cost than cleaner energy options, “causing them to fail our economic stress test.”