Old King Coal

Phasing out, across America and abroad

Coal-fired power plants, as well as their nuclear cousins, have been shutting down in recent years. This is no secret. Many more have been forced into early retirement at an increased rate over the last five years, especially, due to the rise of renewable energy resources, environmental regulations, and global agreements designed to counteract climate change.

And in the past week alone, we have a number of instances of fossil fuel plants being shut down across the nation, exemplifying a change that is no longer “looming”, but now at hand.

Midwest/Rust Belt: FirstEnergy Solutions Corp., the Akron, Ohio-based utility founded in 1997, notified PJM Interconnection of its intention to shut down four fossil fuel plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2021 and 2022, including 4 GW of coal capacity, UtilityDive reported August 29. FES is currently in bankruptcy, and thus asked for an exemption from capacity auctions for the four plants along with three other nuclear facilities set for closure. The exemptions would cover the 2022-23 delivery year and beyond. The company has now slated the shutdown of at least six plants responsible for 8 GW of power, which, Robert Walton of UtilityDive says “are not able to compete against a newer class of gas-fired plants and renewable resources.” What he describes can be seen in the video below, at the Oregon Clean Energy Center near Toledo, Ohio:

Western U.S.: Colorado’s utilities appear to be moving inevitably towards renewable energy generation. The state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) backed utility giant Xcel Energy’s clean energy plan August 28 with a unanimous vote. The Xcel plan calls for the sped-up closure of 660 MW of coal-fired generation and subsequent shift to renewable resources. Closures include units 1 and 2 at the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, Colo.; a $2.5 billion in the state’s renewable energy and battery storage; and a projection of $213 million in savings for ratepayers. In January, the utility solicited notably low bid prices for wind-plus-storage, $21/MWh, as well as $36/MWh for solar-plus-storage, some of the lowest bids for renewable energy plus storage on record, UtilityDive reported. Meanwhile, debate continues about the fate of the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. While this plant was slated for shutdown in 2019, the Department of the Interior has been weighing options for its continued usage, attracting the attention of politicians and big money firms. The Navajo plant is located on Native American tribal land in the Navajo Nation of northern Arizona.

Texas: Three large coal plants have now been retired in the Lone Star State in 2018: the 1,865-MW Monticello plant; the 1,200-MW Sandow (4 & 5) plant; and the 1,208-MW Big Brown plant. These coal plants made up 4,273 MW of generation capacity, about 20% of coal capacity and 4% of total electricity generating capacity in ERCOT at the end of 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Europe: In January 2018, the European Union outlined its plans for phasing out coal in its member countries. According to modeling by Climate Analytics, a non-profit climate science and policy institute based in Berlin, for the EU to remain within its carbon budget, member states must first shelve plans for any additional coal-fired generating capacity and secondly, must start actively shutting down currently operating units at an increased rate. Analysis suggests 25% of currently operating coal-fired power units need to be shut down by 2020, rising to 72% by 2025, before a complete shutdown by 2030.


It isn’t as if the Trump Administration and coal brotherhood aren’t fighting back.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in August it will reconsider the justification behind the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a major Obama-era air regulation responsible for the closure of scores of coal power plants. The EPA will review the regulation’s emissions standards, as well as the agency’s justification that the rules were “appropriate and necessary” in the first place, according to information obtained by UtilityDive from EPA officials. The agency will release proposed changes after an interagency review process expected to take 60-90 days, she said. Most coal plants have either installed pollution controls to comply with MATS or have shut down, and utilities wrote to EPA last month asking it to keep the MATS regulation in place. Any proposed rollback is likely to be met with legal challenges from environmental groups and liberal states.


  1. Vogtle Greenlight | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - September 27, 2018

    […] site near Waynesboro, Ga. The decision marks a much-needed win for a battered nuclear industry seeing rapid shutdown rates across the country and abroad as utilities transition to natural gas and renewable energy […]

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