Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Over 80% of retired electric capacity in 2015 was coal, main fuel for rural electric co-ops

Of the nearly 18,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity utilities retired in 2015, more than 80 percent was coal-fired, states a report released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About half of the retired capacity was from Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio, with Georgia retiring 18 percent of its coal capacity in 2015, Ohio 15 percent and Kentucky 10 percent. Closing the facilities leads to the loss of coal jobs in rural areas and also affects rural electric cooperatives, which depend heavily on coal. (EIA graphic)
Overall, 5 percent of total U.S. coal capacity was retired in 2015, Jeff Swensen reports for International Business Times. While cheaper natural gas has been blamed for some closures many of the coal units, especially older ones, "couldn’t comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s tougher rules for mercury and toxic air emissions, which went into effect in April. More plants are expected to close this year due to the rule. The Obama administration’s  Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector, could force additional closures in coming years." The Sierra Club said that "more than 230 coal-fired plants have been closed or are slated for closure—or 44 percent of the 523 U.S. coal plants that were in operation just six years ago."

Coal-heavy states like Kentucky, which retired 1.5 gigawatts last year, should expect to see its coal capacity shrink again this year, Curtis Tate reports for McClatchy Newspapers. East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which shut down two units at its Dale Station in 2015, will place the two remaining units "with a combined 150 megawatts, in indefinite storage next month. By the end of 2017, the Tennessee Valley Authority will shut down two units in Western Kentucky, at 1.4 gigawatts. A third, 1.1 gigawatt coal unit will remain in service."

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