Note: One gigawatt (GW) equals one thousand megawatts (MW)
The need to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) regulations together with weak electricity demand growth and continued competition from generators fueled by natural gas have recently led several power producers to announce plans to retire coal-fired facilities.
Between 2012 and 2020, about 60 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity is projected to retire in the AEO2014 Reference case, which assumes implementation of the MATS standards, as well as other existing laws and regulations. The recently announced 5.4 gigawatts of retirements reflect particular strategies of coal plant operators and provide a view of some key drivers in coal plant retirement decisions.
Tennessee Valley Authority. On November 14, 2013, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced that it was retiring eight coal-fired units with nearly 3,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. Two units at TVA’s Paradise Fossil Plant (1,230 MW), Unit 8 at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant (465 MW), and all five units at its Colbert Fossil Plant (1,184 MW) are now slated for retirement. The current retirement plans are an addition to TVA’s previously reported retirement plans announced in 2011. TVA officials gave no fixed dates for the planned retirements, but they stated that the units will not operate beyond the MATS implementation date (April 2015).
South Carolina Electric & Gas. South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCEG) announced that it had ceased operations at its Canadys Station generating facility earlier in November. The 295-MW plant’s closing is part of SCEG’s efforts to reduce emissions and to comply with MATS regulations that are scheduled to take effect in 2015. SCEG originally planned to convert the units to natural gas before retiring them in 2018.
Consumers Energy. Consumers Energy (CE) petitioned the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to approve a bond issue to cover costs pertaining to the closure, decommissioning, and demolition of three coal-fired power plants. The facilities, Units 4 and 5 of the B.C. Cobb Plant (312 MW), Units 7 and 8 of the J.C. Weadock Plant (310 MW), and Units 1, 2, and 3 of the J.R. Whiting Plant (325 MW), would cease operations by April 2016. CE stated that the units would be shut down because the installation of additional emissions controls necessary to achieve compliance with EPA environmental regulations would be uneconomical. It was announced on December 3, 2013, that MPSC had approved the bond issue.
Energy Capital Partners. New Jersey-based Energy Capital Partners (ECP) filed paperwork with the Independent System Operator of New England (ISONE) to close the Brayton Point generating facility in 2017 after it failed to reach a deal on a new power-purchase agreement. Brayton Point currently has agreements with ISONE through May 30, 2016. ISONE voted to reject the retirement of the coal-fired units on December 19, 2013, after which the company stated it would go forward with plans to retire all units. Three of the four Brayton Point generating units, totaling about 1,084 MW, are coal-fired; the remaining 435 MW of generator capacity are powered by oil or natural gas. ECP had just recently finalized the purchase of the 1,520-MW facility from Dominion Resources in September 2013.
Georgia Power. Georgia Power (GP) announced that it planned to file a request with the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) to decertify Unit 3 at its Mitchell generating facility. If approved by the GPSC, GP plans to retire the 155-MW unit before the end of April 2015. GP had proposed to convert the unit to use biomass, but the conversion was determined not to be cost effective.
Coal-fired electric generator retirements—announcements since November 2013
|Plant / Units||Plant Owner||State||Megawatts (MW)|
|Paradise / 1-2||Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)||KY||1,230|
|Widows Creek / 8||TVA||AL||465|
|Colbert / 1-5||TVA||AL||1,184|
|Canadys / 2-3||South Carolina Electric & Gas||SC||295|
|B.C. Cobb / 4-5||Consumers Energy (CE)||MI||312|
|J.C. Weadock / 7-8||CE||MI||310|
|J.R. Whiting / 1-3||CE||MI||325|
|Brayton Point / 1-3||Energy Capital Partners||MA||1,084|
|Mitchell / 3||Georgia Power||GA||155|
|Total||5,360 (5.4 gigawatts)|
Principal contributor: Elias Johnson