Owing to continued competition from natural gas and renewable resources, 23% of the 200 568 MW of coal-fired capacity currently operating in the USA has reported plans to retire by the end of 2029, according to the Energy Information Administration’s ‘Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory’.
Between 2012 and 2021, an average of 9450 MW of US coal-fired capacity was retired each year. In 2022, such retirements will total 11 778 MW, if the remaining retirements reported to EIA proceed as scheduled.
The pace of planned coal-fired retirements slows down after 2022; the largest amount of capacity retirement expected over the next seven years is 9842 MW in 2028. Planned retirements continue to be focused on relatively older facilities. Coal-fired generators - especially older, less efficient units - face higher operating and maintenance costs, which make them less competitive and more likely to retire. In addition, some coal-fired power plants must comply with regulations limiting the discharge of wastewater by 2028, which would require additional capital investment, likely influencing the decision to retire some of these coal-fired units.
The planned retirements span 24 states, including several that do not currently have renewable portfolio standards or other clean energy policies that require electricity suppliers to supply a set share of their electricity from specified renewable or carbon-free resources.
Michigan, Texas, Indiana, and Tennessee have the most coal-fired capacity announced to retire through 2029, accounting for a combined 42%.
The type of coal used by retiring units is shifting from mostly bituminous, accounting for 68% of the capacity that was retired from 2911 to 2020, to mostly subbituminous coal and refined coal fuelled plants, which account for a combined 68% of planned retirements between 2022 and 2029. Only 31% of the planned retirements over that time period are primarily fuelled by bituminous coal.
Refined coal, which is made by mixing proprietary additives to feedstock coal, benefited from a tax credit that expired in early 2022. Of the 55 943 MW of capacity that primarily burns refined coal, 27% (15 269 MW) has reported plans to retire between 2022 and 2029.
The last large (ie greater than 100 MW) coal-fired power plant built in the USA was the 932 MW Sandy Creek Energy Station in Texas, which came online in 2013. As of September 2022, developers have not reported any plans to build new coal-fired capacity in the USA.