- 59 GW of the U.S. coal power plant fleet's 347 GW are considered "ripe for retirement," according to a new report from the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS).
- UCS defines "ripe for retirement" as no longer being cost-competitive with existing natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants.
- The "ripe" 59 GW are in addition to the 28 GW of U.S. coal power already scheduled for retirement by 2025.
The economics of coal power in the U.S. are changing.
This is because the U.S. coal fleet's cost-competitiveness is dependent on policy and regulation. If a tax of $20/ton of CO2 emissions were put in place, 131 GW of coal power would be "ripe for retirement," according UCS. But in a scenario where the wind production tax credit expires (which will happen by year's end barring any last-minute action), only 22 GW would "ripe."
As many older, less efficient coal plants have already reached their return on investment, the costs of maintenance and compliance are starting to outweigh the benefits. Coal power plants are being retired in droves as the EPA gets set to propose carbon emission standards for existing power plants, as well as finalize those for new power plants. As a result, coal power is becoming increasingly economically unattractive as President Obama seeks to phase out the U.S. fleet through pollution controls.
Needless to say, the outlook for U.S. coal power is grim.