Coal IEA-17

Published on March 9th, 2016 | by U.S. Energy Information Administration

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Coal Made Up More Than 80% Of Retired Electricity Generating Capacity In 2015

March 9th, 2016 by  

Originally published by the EIA.

IEA-16

Nearly 18 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity was retired in 2015, a relatively high amount compared with recent years. More than 80% of the retired capacity was conventional steam coal. The coal-fired generating units retired in 2015 tended to be older and smaller in capacity than the coal generation fleet that continues to operate.

Coal’s share of electricity generation has been falling, largely because of competition with natural gas. Environmental regulations affecting power plants have also played a role. About 30% of the coal capacity that retired in 2015 occurred in April, which is when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule went into effect. Some coal plants applied for and received one-year extensions, meaning that many of the coal retirements expected in 2016 will likely also occur in April. Several plants have received additional one-year extensions beyond April 2016 based on their role in ensuring regional system reliability.

Much of the existing coal capacity in the United States was built from 1950 to 1990 during a time when electricity sales were growing much faster than population and gross domestic product. In more recent years, electricity sales growth has slowed or fallen, and net capacity additions (of all fuel types) have been relatively low. The coal units that were retired in 2015 were mainly built between 1950 and 1970, and the average age of those retired units was 54 years. The rest of the coal fleet that continues to operate is relatively younger, with an average age of 38 years.

The coal units retired in 2015 also tended to be smaller than the rest of the coal fleet. The net summer capacity of the average retired coal unit was 133 megawatts (MW), compared with 278 MW for the rest of the coal units still operating.

IEA-17

The amount of coal capacity retired in 2015 was about 4.6% of the nation’s coal capacity at the beginning of that year. Nearly half of the 2015 retired coal capacity was located in three states—Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky—and those states each retired at least 10% of their coal capacity in 2015. Other states that traditionally have had high levels of coal-fired electricity generation, such as Indiana, West Virginia, and Virginia, each retired at least one GW of coal capacity in 2015.

 

IEA-18

 


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About the Author

-- the EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.



  • Brian

    Bob, you are the one who is making claims that can’t back up. Natural gas fracking is not safe for our water supply. In addition, your claim that using dirty coal is the only other option is false. We can build solar power plants and wind farms in 18 to 24 months that once built, don’t need to constantly extract a dirty fossil fuel, and release it into out atmosphere, and contribute to Global Warming. We have to keep pumping dirty NG from the ground, after injecting toxic chemicals in the ground. Instead wind and solar are free, and plentiful. We can also put solar on homes and businesses, or on vacant land, lakes or closed landfills. India is putting solar on canals. Intermittency is solved by combining a massive amount of home solar, decentralized solar power plants, solar thermal power plants with molten salt storage, and wind farms. Small wind turbines also supplement home solar power. Hawaii is putting a massive amount of solar power systems on their homes. we can do the same across the USA, as the prices have dropped dramatically.

    • jdeely

      Sounds good… let’s get started with Wyoming,Indiana and Missouri. Whats’ next?

  • Brian

    We seem to have a false narrative here that centers around the false choice of either we have natural gas with it’s environmentally destructive fracking, or we have dirty coal plants with their mercury, coal ash, or other problems. Brian S and Bob are telling us our only option is to use natural gas as a bridge fuel, until we can completely phase out coal, and allow 100% renewables. Otherwise, according to them, our only option is to continue to use dirty coal. I disagree, Solar power plants and wind farms can be built in 18 to 24 months. Instead of building more natural gas fracking operations, that threaten are water supply, lets focus on massively expanding home solar power, and building thousands of smaller decentralized wind, and solar farms across the country. In addition natural biogas can be obtained from food waste, animal waste, and landfills. With such a short amount of time, 18 to 24 months, to build a wind farms or solar power plant, to use a bridge fuel, NG, which will have to be phased out eventually anyway, and can poison our water supply. This is not an either or question. This is a question of how to best utilize our resources, and protect our environment. Natural gas also has to be constantly pumped unlike wind and solar, which once the plants are built, or the wind farm completed, the energy is free. Germany has overcome intermittency by integrating the grid. In the morning wing blow wind turbines in the Gulf in Texas, and in the afternoon, it blows in West Texas. By building a massive amount of decentralized wind and solar farms, the intermittency issue for renewables becomes non existent.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Brian, seems to me that you just aren’t well informed when it comes to the problems of supplying a grid with only wind and solar and with the current stage of storage technology/cost.

      I’m not sensing any desire on your part to understand the realities of running a reliable grid. You seem to be all about the problems associated with fracking. If you wish to be a one note Johnny, that’s your right. But I don’t see it worth my while to try to discuss the larger issues with you.

      • Brian

        Bob, It seems your stuck on this false belief that using dirty natural gas is better than using dirty coal, so therefore it is the only option to allow us to close dirty coal plants sooner. One could argue that using nuclear power could also be an option, except that we need to store the deadly radioactive waste for the next 100,000 years. Yes, NG is cleaner than dirty coal, but the environmental cost of fracking is not worth it. NG also emits Global Warming increasing emissions, so solar and wind which are falling quickly in price are a far better option. You seem to think that integrating wind and solar is so difficult. Actually, it is very simple. You build a massive amount of wind farms, solar power plants, and decentralize home solar and small wind on homes, businesses, vacant lots, and landfills. Germany is doing this now and gets 30% of it’s electricity from mostly solar and wind power which is integrated into it’s grid. Since you cannot comprehend the concept of integrating wind and solar into the grid along with other renewables like Germany, Denmark, Norway, Morocco, Kenya, and many other countries are doing, it is not worth continuing this discussion. All dirty fossil fuels including natural gas, should be left in the ground, unfortunately, you cannot understand the necessity to confront Global Warming.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Yes, NG is cleaner than dirty coal, but the environmental cost of fracking is not worth it.”

          Thank you. NG is cleaner than dirty coal.

          Have you ever considered the environmental cost of coal mining and transportation? Or are you totally blinded by your concerns over fracking?
          Do you not understand the value of a highly dispatchable generation source?
          Try some deeper thinking. You seem to be wading in the kiddie pool.

  • Brian

    Would Bob, and Brian S drink water from a well, where natural gas fracking operations are close by? NG has to be constanly fracked to provide a constant supply, unlike solar and wind, where once the power plants are built, the energy is free. It makes no sense to risk poisoning our water supply, and create earthquakes, to use NG, when we know it will have to be phased out eventually to allow solar and wind to provide 100% of our electricity. We should stop using natural gas now, and use only solar, wind , hydro, or geothermal. Flint, Mich already has a poison water problem. we don’t need more across the country due to fracking.

    • Brian S.

      There are serious lead poisoning problems all around the country, but they aren’t due to fracking. I’d definitely get my water tested frequently if there was a well nearby. I’d also get my water tested frequently if my well were next to a coal mine or a fly ash storage pond.

      I’m all for a giant carbon tax (or even a small one) to encourage this transition. Spread the word, because it needs to happen! I’m also in favor of heavy fines for accidental pollution, heavy taxes for inevitable pollution, and funding the regulators as needed for enforcement. If you want to ban extraction in heavily populated areas, I’ll support you! But as long as we have a need for natural gas, there has to be a well-regulated process for extracting it.

      However, I’m not willing to shut off the electricity or my heat while we get this transition sorted out. We can and should move faster than we are right now. But we can’t transition overnight. Do you actually want to shut the grid off tomorrow and gradually bring it back online over the next decade+ with wind and solar? Or do you accept that we’ll continue to burn gas until that wind and solar is installed?

  • jdeely

    I was thinking that there was no way we could see another large drop in coal based electricity in 2016 – at least not as large as 2015 – which was tremendous- from 38.6% of total electricity in 2014 to 33.2% in 2015. Phenomenal.

    Surely there would be a slowdown in 2016… But then I saw this – http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/companies/2016/03/09/First-Energy-Bruce-Mansfield-coal-power-plant-idled-because-of-low-power-prices/stories/201603090203

    “For almost three weeks, FirstEnergy Corp.’s largest coal plant, Bruce Mansfield in Shippingport, has been sitting idle with no restart date planned.”

    I am beginning to wonder if we are close to a tipping point.

  • sault

    Wonder when the associated health benefits of these retirements will start to be measurable in economic data. There is scientific evidence that taking lead out of gasoline contributed to the drop in violent crime since the 1990’s:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27067615

    There, the lag time was about 23 years, enough for children born after the leaded gasoline ban to grow up into their prime criminal years.

    The benefits of lower soot, smog and other nasty coal pollutants will probably show up sooner due to less acute respiratory illnesses, heart attacks, strokes, etc. However, the macro-effect of lower pollution will go hand-in-hand with wider healthcare access (Thanks, Obama!), so the direct effect will be hard to suss out of the data.

    What will be easier to determine is the effect of mercury pollution from coal power plants on childhood development much like with lead. And since we have a better idea of the geographic distribution of mercury pollution levels (hundreds of coal plant point sources vs millions of mobile vehicle pollution sources using leaded gas), we’ll be able to see the benefits accrue to individual states and sometimes individual cities.

    • neroden

      The mercury reductions will unfortunately probably have the same time lag, as it has the most significant effect on babies (just like lead).

  • Kevin McKinney

    A cheerful result. We see a lot of news about the increase in RE generation, but less about the corollary necessity, which is shutting down FF, with priority on the dirtiest, which is coal. So it’s very nice indeed to see that some of that, at least, is actually happening.

    It would have been still nicer had that number been relative to the globe, not just the good ol’ USA. But I expect that information is a lot harder to come by.

  • Brian

    When it is not sunny in one place or windy, it is always windy or sunny in another place. The renewables intermittency issue can be solved with battery storage, and a massive increase in wind and solar power.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No today, Brian.

      But a new solar or wind farm coming on line today means that we can run gas plants less.

      • Brian

        Bob, if you lived off grid in a remote location, and only had well water, would you feel comfortable drinking that water if a natural gas fracking operation is nearby? Remember the deadly San Bruno California explosions a couple of years ago? Natural gas explodes and causes accidents that kill people. A lot of methane is also released at the well site, so when you include the toxic chemical injected in the ground during the fracking process, NG really isn’t much cleaner than dirty coal. Putting solar power on as many homes, and businesses and building decentralized solar power plants in as many locations as possible could provide all the electricity we need. Eventually solar, and wind power will have to take over, as NG is phased out, so how can that happen if according to you, the intermittency problem in unsolvable. We can supply 100% of our electricity with solar and wind, if we build the transmission capacity, massively build solar and wind farms, and massively increases solar power systems on residential, and businesses. Tesla is building the Powerwall, which will be able to store power from wind and solar power for home use.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Brian, if you lived off grid in a remote location would you feel comfortable getting your water downstream from a coal ash dump?

          You’re pretty much a one trick pony with this NG fracking stuff. I suspect fracking is in your backyard.

          Have you looked to see if NG is net better or worse than coal? Even at 1:1 substitution?

          How about 30% NG vs 100% coal?

          What’s the death rate for coal and NG? I suspect there’s no contest seeing how many miners die every year in mine accidents. Add in all the black lung disease and non-miners suffering from respiratory illnesses caused by coal pollution.

          I’m very aware that over the next 25 to 35 years we can build transmission and storage in order to largely eliminate fossil fuel use. But I’m also interested in reducing CO2 emissions and pollution problems in the meantime.

          • Brian

            It only takes 18 to 24 months to build a solar power plant or wind farm. Why build a natural gas fracking operation that threatens our water supply, is ugly, and scars our landscape, when, we can build wind farms and decentralized solar power plants across the country? Your promoting a false either dirty coal, or NG narrative. It’s not use dirty coal or NG as a bridge fuel, it’s use dirty coal, or wind, solar. Yes dirty coal plants are terrible releasing mercury and depositing dirty coal ash, but again your promoting a false narrative Replace dirty coal plants with wind and solar, which continue to drop dramatically in price. Forget natural gas, we don’t need it. When the wind blows in the Gulf in Texas in the morning, the turbines produce power, and later in the day the West Texas wind turbines produce power. By simply building more decentralized wind farms and solar power plants, around the country, we can end the intermittency issue.

    • Brian S.

      Transmission certainly helps, but wind in particular has variability on many different time scales. Take a look at the renewable data for Germany: https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm

      Consider November 2015. There was almost no wind for the first week, then massive amounts of wind mid month. Batteries will never be economically capable of storing a week’s worth of energy. You generally need hundreds of cycles per year to get the cost down to a reasonable level, so weekly storage in batteries is impractical by at least an order of magnitude. Getting to 100% renewables will be hard, and gas generating capacity will be needed for a long time. Still, we should install renewables as fast as possible and try to minimize the capacity factors for gas and coal.

      • Brian

        Eventually NG must be phased out to allow solar and wind to take over, so battery storage will take over. We don’t need to store power for a week. It only needs to be stored for a day. Tesla and other companies are developing the home storage batteries as well as larger banks for solar and wind power plants. Yes, their are gaps when wind will not blow for a week, but the sun shines each day. Germany gets must less sun than the entire USA, and yet they lead the world in solar power. A combination of residential solar, solar power plants, wind, hydro, geothermal, and wave, power could easily solve our electricity needs. Solar thermal plants also store power in molten salt to provide power after the sun goes down.

        • Brian S.

          Germany would have to install 50x more solar to cover 100% of their electricity needs in November, and if they did, they’d have >5x overgeneration in July. It’s all just a matter of cost, and if we’re willing to pay enough, we can get to 100%. But the last 10% will probably be more expensive than the first 50% combined.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “We don’t need to store power for a week. ”

          Brian, you’re making claims that you cannot back up.

  • Brian

    This is good, but natural gas cannot be excused as a bridge fuel. Trading dirty coal plant emissions for contaminated water and earthquakes from natural gas fracking operations is not the solution. The solution is a dramatic increase in home solar power installations, along with a massive amount of decentralized solar power plants and wind farms. Natural gas cannot be accepted as a bridge fuel. You cannot pump undisclosed toxic chemicals into the earth, and not expect these poisonous chemicals to poison our water supply. The feed and tariff which jump started Germany’s solar revolution, should become the law in the USA. Solar power, including small wind turbines, should be put on every home, business, vacant lot, brownfield, or place that gets enough sun in the USA, to replace all dirty fossil fuels, including natural gas.

    • Martin

      Totally agree, distributed power is the way of the future.

    • Brent Jatko

      Agreed, partially. Another reason to limit fracking is earthquakes. This has been done in Oklahoma, but not until after Edmond (an upscale area where many OK legislators and officials live) was affected.

      • Harry Johnson

        Republicans are empathy deficient.

        • Brent Jatko

          Agreed.

        • dRanger

          “Republicans are empathy deficient.” To be fair, I think most Repubs have some empathy, but only for each other. As empathy is the basis for human morality, that explains a lot.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Let me complete your solution statement –

      “The solution is a dramatic increase in home solar power installations, along with a massive amount of decentralized solar power plants and wind farms. When the wind is not blowing and Sun is not shining then we should simply all sit down, close our eyes and take a break while we wait for the grid to come back up. Natural gas cannot be accepted as a bridge fuel.”

      • Brian

        We have energy storage, in the future. Tesla and other companies are developing batteries to store home solar and small wind power. If we massively ramped up solar, wind and geothermal power, intermittency wouldn’t be an issue. When it’s cloudy or not windy over your house, it will be sunny, or windy 5 miles away. Please keep an open mind. The renewables intermittency issue can be overcome by advancing battery storage, and massively increasing solar power plants wind farms and small wind for homes as well as solar power installations for homes. We must stop using dirty fossil fuels, and natural gas with it’s environmentally destructive fracking is a dirty fossil fuel, and not acceptable.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, Brian, we do not. At least in an amount that would allow us to close coal plants.

          The choice at the moment is whether to use a mix of wind, solar and NG or to continue to burn coal. All of us understand the problems of NG but hopefully most of us realize 30% from NG is better than 100% from coal.
          I think most of us also understand that we are working toward a future grid that uses little or no fossil fuel. And that most of us realize that we can’t convert our grids overnight.

          • neroden

            We’ve massively overbuilt NG power generation already. In most areas we can just close the coal plants now. We certainly don’t need to build any more NG plants.

          • Jamset

            But you do not feel the same way about hybrid cars.

            Petrol engines are very cheap.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The parallel does not hold.

            It is fairly certain that EV batteries for a 200 mile range will be cheaper than an ICE range extender. And using a larger battery pack means that the batteries are probably going to outlast the car.

      • dRanger

        Oh Bob, you already know the answer to that. Solar is conveniently available during the times of peak demand, and the wind is always blowing – somewhere. I agree with you that natural gas is obviously a bridge fuel away from coal though.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I expect our future grids will have sufficient storage and transmission to allow us to largely abandon fossil fuels.

          The problem is, that storage and transmission is not installed yet.

          Many utilities (I think) saw the time coming when EPA regs would force them to close some of their coal plants. The ones that would have been to expensive to clean up. Those utilities installed CCNG plants. What we can do right now is keep installing wind and solar so that those CCNG plants are run less. Developing affordable storage and building more transmission will take time.

          • dRanger

            “…storage and transmission is not installed yet.” True, which is why both of us agree that natural gas is a necessary bridge. We don’t have to like it though.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hope I haven’t given the impression that I like using natural gas.

            I just see it as the lesser of two evils and we’re going to use one of them in the near term.

          • dRanger

            Nope, you didn’t and I didn’t mean to imply that you did. I think we’re pretty much on the same page with this one.

        • TatuSaloranta

          “Somewhere” only helps if that somewhere is grid-connected with high-capacity inter-connectors. Over time this may be the case, but on short-to-medium term periods of low-wind would require either huge amounts of day-over-day storage, or, peaker plants.
          For next decade or two peaker plants still make sense in limited capacity; and plants should ideally be able to use a variety of fuels, to convert over time from natural gas to biogas, power-to-gas and other renewable resources.

          But demanding immediate cut-off from natural gas does not make sense: first things first. Coal eliminated, first, then electrification of transport, heating, and then worry more about (L)NG.

          • neroden

            I think that it’s worth focusing on transmission line upgrades. These face a lot of NIMBY hostility, so they’re hard to get built. But they are extremely valuable, allowing “stranded wind” from Iowa or west Texas and “stranded solar” from the deserts of Arizona and “stranded” hydropower from Quebec to reach the major population centers which need the electricity.

            Transmission is the bridge we need. Not natural gas. Local production is not going to match local demand for quite a while, until we have huge overbuilds of solar and lots and lots of batteries. But continent-wide production will meet continent-wide demand a lot sooner than that, so bring on the transmission lines….

          • TatuSaloranta

            I 100% agree that transmission line upgrades, building new, more, is absolutely necessary and valuable and should be major focus.
            No doubt about that.

      • Brian S.

        Natural gas will be needed as a bridge fuel, but I hope we can limit installation of new natural gas capacity. I would like to see a study of how little new natural gas capacity we could install and still eliminate coal in the near-term (5-10 years). Solar with ice storage A/C could be a powerful combination for replacing the 300 GW of peak summer capacity provided by coal.

        • Bob_Wallace

          IIRC NG installation rates are down. But I don’t think the total NG capacity we have is what is important.

          NG is very dispatchable and relatively easy to store. It’s the best option we have right now for ‘deep backup’. I think we’d be wise to have enough NG capacity to keep the lights on in the most extreme situations. It’s highly unlikely utilities or the general public will accept a grid that shuts off for a few hours a year simply because we have no low-carbon supply.

          We’re only going to make a transition off fossil fuels if the option we offer people is roughly as ‘usable’ and not significantly more expensive as the old fossil fuel based grid.

          CCNG plants have low installed costs. $1.09/watt according to the DOE Open Source database. Install the plants now. Use them to replace coal. Pay them off.

          At the same time install wind and solar at faster rates so that as the years go on the gas plants run less and less. But have the gas plants there for the few times we need them.

          In 1980 we were getting 75% of our electricity from fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and NG). We can’t plant enough trees to absorb that much CO2. But if we got our FF use down to ~5% it might be possible to offset that amount of CO2.

          We can hope that someone will figure out a dispatchable clean source or inexpensive enough storage to cover that last 5%/whatever. But we should now count on it. We should assume that nothing new will be invented and build based on what we know works. (If there’s a breakthrough sometime later then we can be pleasantly surprised and switch.)

          • neroden

            I believe in the US we’ve badly overbuilt CCNG plants already. I think we should stop building new ones.

            My local utility said that all that’s needed to shut down the coal plants in the area is upgraded transmission lines. Period. This is way cheaper, and way more valuable in the long term, than building any sort of new thermal power plant.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you have the numbers that show we’ve built enough gas capacity then we can assume we’ve built enough gas capacity. I suspect we haven’t built enough for all grids.

          • Brian S.

            I agree with almost everything you said here. Grid reliability has to be >99.99%, so we definitely need enough capacity for that 0.01% peak. And if it’s a choice between burning coal for 20 years while we build out solar, wind, and storage or building CCNG now, I’ll take the CCNG. My main concern is that displacing existing CCNG generation with wind and solar will be economically difficult even far into the future.

            If gas is $4.50 / MMBTU, then the fuel costs of combined cycle natural gas are only $30/MWh or so. A carbon tax would help, but only a little. $60/tonne is another $20/MWh and even that appears to be a political fantasy. Will PV in Ohio be able to compete at $50/MWh? Maybe, but once you reach the penetration level that requires demand response, curtailment, storage, or long-distance transmission, the economics will get increasingly difficult. The extra $20-40/MWh contribution to LCOE from capital costs would really help renewables to compete at higher penetration levels. That is why I want to be careful not to overbuild.

            In my opinion, the only storage technology with the potential to cover that last 5% is hydrogen with underground storage similar to existing NG storage. If the DOE cost projections on automotive fuel cells are accurate, I don’t see why the system would need to be dramatically more expensive than NG plants are now in terms of capital costs. Traditionally, stationary fuel cells are more expensive than automotive, but that is due to longer lifetime requirements, lower volumes, higher efficiency, and tolerance of NG reforming byproducts (CO). A system designed for peaking could get by with slightly lower efficiency and shorter lifetime. Unfortunately, the variable costs would be pretty bad due to the low round trip efficiency. Still, it’s the only storage technology with capital costs that are the right order of magnitude for seasonal storage.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hydrogen is an incredibly inefficient storage technology. It would probably make more sense to add pumps/turbines to some of the thousands of existing hydro dams that are not now being used for generation.

            That said, we’re years away from needing to work on the ‘last 5%’. CCNG gives us grid reliability – the last 50%, then last 30%, then last 15% and then last 5% for not a lot of capital investment.

            And don’t overlook the ‘comfort level’ of CCNG for utilities and their customers. If the plants are in place then they can be turned on. No one is going to get their bloomers in a bunch over the wind not blowing or Sun not shining if there’s ample capacity waiting in the wings.

          • Brian S.

            True, it is inefficient, which is why it would only be suited for the last 5% where capital cost / kWh capacity is all that matters. Probably, it would get beat out by carbon sequestration, tree planting, or just ignoring the relatively small amount of CO2. Obviously, we are many, many decades away from that decision anyway. I just think it’s an interesting option because I research fuel cells.

            My fear is that nobody is going to install wind, solar, or especially storage if there is ample efficient capacity waiting in the wings. I want to see batteries being installed in places like New York to store the excess solar and wind power. If we are successfully transitioning away from gas then gas will be cheap. We need to capture the capacity value of solar and storage, not just the energy value. Capacity value = $0 if CCNG is already overbuilt.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “My fear is that nobody is going to install wind, solar, or especially storage if there is ample efficient capacity waiting in the wings
            ​”​

            We have ample efficient capacity right now. But we are installing wind and solar at rapidly increasing rates. That’s due to wind and solar being cheaper than fossil fuels and an overall desire to lower CO2 emissions.
            RE will only get cheaper. Concern over climate change will only grow.

          • Brian S.

            Well, I still think the difference between competing against new generation and existing generation matters for cases with less favorable economics: wind in the southeast, solar in the north, and storage almost everywhere. It’s not just the endpoint of the energy transition that matters, but also the speed.

            In more basic terms, I wouldn’t want to invest MY money in new fossil fuel plants of any technology. I don’t think either of us expects that to be a profitable investment in the long term.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think we both realize that we might need some sort of FF capacity for the last 5%, 1%, whatever. If there’s a need for FF capacity to furnish that last percentage then the grid will pay for the plants. That’s simply how things work.

            In 2013 gas turbines (peakers) ran 4.9% of the time. In 2014 they ran 5.2% of the time. They were paid enough to cover their expenses and furnish a profit for their owners. If the grid was unwilling to pay then they would not have run and the grid would have experienced brown/black outs.

          • Brian S.

            Dispatch order only guarantees that the plants cover their variable operating costs. Covering your fixed expenses (interest, depreciation, etc) depends on operating for enough hours above your marginal costs. In a deregulated market, profit is not guaranteed, and it is easy to lose money if capacity is overbuilt.

            Basically, I want to phase out coal ASAP, but I prefer that new CCNG be the method of last resort, not the primary strategy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If the price offered does not cover all costs then the plant will not turn on and will be sold for scrap.

  • Martin

    Interesting facts:
    Between 1950 to 1990 electricity use grew faster than population or GDP, but in more recent years electricity use slowed or even fell, while GDP increased.
    Funny how much energy efficiency can do or constantly rising cost of a product will stall or reduce the use of that product.
    Add to all of that the steady build out of RE systems, wind, solar etc and FF will disappear at some future date.
    And that will be a very good thing for our planet.

    • solarone

      I wonder if you add up all of the energy used for the production of imported goods that the US consumed (continues to consume) if you could make the same claim? Does anyone know of any studies?

      • Jamset

        Yes a lot of factories went offshore.

        Air Conditioners are much more efficient today.

        Did power consumption go up during the great depression?

  • Mike333

    If you’re an index investor, you can avoid this massive coal bankruptcy with the ETF: SPYX. SPYX is divested from carbon already.

    Oh, and THANKS OHIO for polluting Pennsylvania.

    • Brian

      Much of Pennsylvania’s fracking water gets disposed in Ohio. Thanks Pennsylvania for polluting Ohio! (Admittedly, that’s still Ohio’s fault for having lax disposal laws.)

  • JamesWimberley

    Since we are often hard here on the EIA for getting renewables totally wrong, kudos are in order here for a workmanlike piece on coal.

    The retirements don’t follow the political divisions over the CPP. Deep red Southern states are closing old coal plants.

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