Most of US capacity retirement in 2021 will be nuclear and coal

13 January 2021

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest inventory of electrical generation, 9.1 GW of capacity is scheduled to retire during 2021. Nuclear generating capacity will account for the largest share of total retirements (56%), followed by coal (30%). 

At 5.1 GW, nuclear capacity retirements represent 5% of the current operating US nuclear generating capacity. The Exelon Corporation is scheduled to retire two of its Illinois nuclear plants, Dresden and Byron, total combined capacity 4.1 GW. The 1.0 GW reactor at Indian Point 3 in New York state is scheduled to retire in April, with the result that 2021 will set a record for the most annual nuclear capacity retirements ever. The decrease in US nuclear power generating capacity is a result of historically low natural gas prices, limited growth in demand and increased competition from renewable energy. 

After substantial retirements of coal-fired electric generating capacity over the last five years, totalling 48 GW, coal retirements will slow in 2021, at 2.7 GW, which accounts for 1% of the US coal fleet. These retirements will come primarily from older units – the capacity-weighted average age of retiring coal units is over 51 years. Nearly two-thirds of the capacity retirements are located in four states – Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, and Wisconsin. The largest coal retirement in 2021 will be at Chalk Point in Maryland, where both of its coal-fired units (670 MW combined) are expected to retire. 

More than 800 MW of oil-fired capacity and 253 MW of natural gas-fired capacity are scheduled to retire in 2021, including the 786 MW unit at Possum Point in Virginia. After operating for 34 years, a 143 MW biomass waste-to-energy plant in Southport, North Carolina, will retire in March.

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