Companies Set To Shut Down A Near-Record Amount Of Coal Power This Year

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Bad news for coal country. Power companies plan on closing a near-record amount of coal-fired capacity this year, according to federal government energy data.

While coal mining saw a slight uptick in 2017 due to growing international demand for coal used in steel production, the power companies still have plan to shutter coal-fired power plants around the country.

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows nearly 15 gigawatts of generation capacity is slated for closure in 2018, mostly from coal. Coal plants in Texas and the eastern U.S. will be closed in response to federal and state regulations and economic conditions.

graph of U.S. utility-scale electric generating capacity retirements, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration


Coal production and exports surged in 2017 spurred by big demand increases in Asia and Europe. While demand for metallurgical coal was a big driver, Asians countries also snatched up U.S. coal to power their economies.

Experts at Platts noted similar trends in 2017, finding “coal was generally the fuel of choice to meet incremental fossil fuel demand in the power sector outside of Europe in 2017.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said Trump administration policies “provided optimism” to the struggling industry. Coal’s share of electricity generation in the U.S. increased a little as well, mostly due to higher natural gas prices.

But that optimism won’t stop the massive wave of coal plant closures slated for 2018.

This year will see the second-most coal-fired capacity retired on record, according to EIA. A record number of coal capacity was taken offline in 2015 when the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury emissions regulation went into effect.

EIA noted many of the power plants closed were small and inefficient, meaning companies were unlikely to pay the hefty price tag to being them into compliance with federal rules. EIA noted “changes in regional electricity use, federal or state policies that affect plant operation, and state policies that require or encourage the use of certain fuels such as renewables,” also played a role.

While coal is still a large part of the U.S. electricity mix, the plant closures illustrate that mining companies will have to increasingly look to exports for business.

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