As much as 18 percent of the country’s coal-fired generating capacity should be considered for closure, according to a new independent analysis released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The report, "Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants," found that as many as 353 coal generators, located in 31 states, may no longer be economically viable even after they are upgraded with modern pollution controls.
According to the report, the cost associated with continuing to run these plants would exceed power generated from natural gas-fired power plants and, in certain cases, wind. In total, the plants that were found to be “ripe-for-retirement” represent some 59 gigawatts (GW) of U.S. power generation.
“Our analysis shows that switching to cleaner energy sources and investing in energy efficiency often makes more economic sense than spending billions to extend the life of obsolete coal plants,” said Steve Frenkel, report co-author and director of UCS’s Midwest office.
The report ranks states and utilities with the most coal-fired power capacity that should be considered for closure, showing the highest concentration of these in the Southeast and Midwest regions. Among states Georgia and Alabama hold the top spots while Southern Company (NYSE: SO) and the Tennessee Valley Authority take the lead amid utilities.
The analysis also highlights that these coal-fired generators could be closed without endangering reliability because the U.S. is projected to have 145 GW of excess capacity by 2014 - above and beyond reserve margins required to maintain reliability at the regional power grid level.
“With appropriate planning, the vast majority of these coal generators could be closed and replaced with cleaner, more affordable resources while maintaining reliability,” said Jeff Deyette, a UCS energy analyst and report co-author. "Every region in the country has the potential to more than replace retiring coal generation by ramping up underutilized natural gas plants, increasing renewable energy through existing state policies, and reducing demand through current energy efficiency programs.”
Access the full report here -
Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants