Biggest US coal plant closures of 2013

It's no secret that the US is abandoning coal in a big way: Over the next decade, US power companies have formalized plans to permanently retire nearly 28,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generating capacity.

According to a report from SNL Financial, by 2015, US power plants will have to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 'Mercury and Air Toxics Standards' which sets limits on plant emissions.

Coal-fired power plants – the biggest source of US electricity generation – are hit particularly hard by these standards. As a result, companies have been gradually retiring non-EPA-compliant plants, with the biggest spike in closures expected between 2014 and 2016.

Surprisingly, the pace of retirements has slowed in 2013 compared with 2012 when 8,800 MW of coal capacity was permanently shuttered.

This year's, the US will forsake just under 6,000 MW of coal power – 34% less than the previous year.

Planned coal cpacity retirements, SNL Financial

Source: SNL Energy, Aug 2013 | Map credit: Whit Varner

Here are the biggest US coal-fired power plant closures of 2013, grouped by company and based on data compiled by SNL Financial.

1 – FirstEnergy Corp

FirstEnergy Corp retired the largest amount of coal power in 2013 in terms of megawatts. By closing its Hatfield's Ferry Power Station and Mitchell Power Station in Courtney Pennsylvania, the company took nearly 2,000MW of coal out of the US power mix. In total, about 380 employees were affected, according to a FirstEnergy news release. The company decided to shutter the plants because the cost of EPA-compliance was too high.

2 – Duke Energy

Duke Energy – the largest electric power holding company in the US – shut down three coal units in North Carolina this year, totalling 1,342MW. Among the closures was Duke's first large-scale power plant, the 256-megawatt Buck Steam Station in Rowan County which began operating in 1926.

3 – Southern Company

Through its subsidiary Georgia Power, Southern Company shuttered two units of its Harllee Branch power plant as Georgia Power shifts toward nuclear power, 21st-century coal technology, natural gas and renewable energy. Combined, the units produced about 500MW.