At least 45% of U.S. coal power is set to disappear by the end of the decade, a figure that will likely rise as more utilities conclude their coal-fired plants no longer make financial sense to operate, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Electricity producers have announced plans to shutter 99.2 gigawatts of coal plants through 2030, IEEFA said in a report released Monday. Another 36.8 gigawatts are scheduled to retire or be converted to natural gas in subsequent years, leaving 82.4 gigawatts of capacity without closure plans. The report comes as U.S. coal prices topped $100 for the first time in 13 years as Russia’s war in Ukraine upends international energy markets.
Still, U.S. utilities are increasingly shifting away from the dirtiest fossil fuel in favor of cheaper natural gas and renewables. That trend is accelerating as tighter environmental rules and increasing maintenance costs make aging coal plants more expensive to operate. With President Joe Biden pushing for a carbon-free power grid by 2035, IEEFA energy analyst Dennis Wamsted expects more closures.
“Without a doubt, it will go higher,” said Wamsted, a co-author of the report. “It’s amazing how many plants are about to be retired.”
The biggest year for closures will be 2028, when stricter Environmental Protection Agency policies take effect and more than 22 gigawatts of capacity are scheduled to go dark. Wamsted said the EPA announced additional restrictions last year that may eventually spur utilities to retire another 18 gigawatts.
U.S. coal power peaked in 2011 with almost 318 gigawatts of generation capacity. About 99 gigawatts closed in the past decade.
(By Will Wade)