U.S. retires more than 9,000 MW of coal-fired power in 2012

Coal-fired plants shut down amid low gas prices, strict federal regulations

More than 9,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation were retired in the United States during 2012, and another 36,000 MW of older coal-fired plants are expected to retire in the next several years, Reuters reported. Stricter regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency have made it more difficult for coal-fired plants to stay open, the source said. Cheap natural gas has also played a role.

Coal plants provide about 316 gigawatts of generation in the United States - about 30 percent of the 1,039 GW electric fleet. It's estimated as much as 60,000 MW to 100,000 MW of coal-fired generation may be shut down across the nation in the future, Reuters reported.

Newer gas-fired power plants are proving natural gas as a cheaper alternative to coal. Reuters said the price of gas fell to a 13-year low in 2012.

EPA's guidelines have led Georgia Power, for example, to ask state regulators to shut down 15 coal-and oil-fired generators, the Daily Caller reported. If those go offline, the state would lose more than 2,000 MW of electricity generating capacity. The company said the cost of complying with current and future federal regulations, as well as the low cost of natural gas, led it to make the decision to shut down coal and oil operations.

More details on the U.S. coal-fired power industry can be found at PennEnergy's research area.

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