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article imageCoal-fired power plant closures in 2017 will reduce coal demand

By Karen Graham     Apr 24, 2017 in Business
In a report issued Friday by the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, 46 coal-burning units at 25 power plants across 16 states will close or greatly reduce production by 2018, resulting in a 30 million-ton
decrease in demand for coal.
Seth Feaster, a data analyst, and author of the study said these estimates are conservative. “These kinds of announcements [of coal retirements] have been coming at a rapid clip all across the country,” he said. “There is a lot of momentum toward closing coal plants because they are not economical.”
The new research brief went step-by-step through the expected implications of the coal-fired generating plant closures over 2017 and 2018. The expected closures cover 16 states and include plants in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
IEEFA/Seth Feaster
The report also included data on the coal-producing regions that will be hardest hit by the plant closures, including the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, and those in the Illinois Basin. Fully two-thirds of coal demand losses will come from these two regions.
Feaster points out that the upcoming closures are not due to regulatory restrictions as some people have been led to believe. The closings have more to do with good business practices and economic sense. Companies are looking at the declining costs involved with producing energy from natural gas and other renewables, as well as the development of new and more affordable renewable energy technologies, reports Clean Technica.
“There are a lot of coal plants that are like the walking dead out there,” Feaster said. “There is an extraordinary drum beat to these closures.”
Peabody Energy s Bucyrus Erie 3850-B Power Shovel named  Big Hog  working at the company s Sinclair ...
Peabody Energy's Bucyrus Erie 3850-B Power Shovel named "Big Hog" working at the company's Sinclair Surface Mine in 2010.
Peabody Energy Corp.
Yet despite the IEEFA report, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects the U.S. will see some growth in coal-fired electricity generation, primarily a result of higher natural gas prices, to contribute to a 4.0 percent increase in coal production in 2017 and an additional 2.0 percent increase in 2018.
It's interesting to note that on the EIA website, the last time any information on coal-fired power plants closures was mentioned was in a 2014 report that opened with the statement: "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."
The 2014 report went on to say that between 2012 and 2020, about 60 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity is expected to be retired. Actually, according to the IEEFA research brief, by the end of 2018, plant closures detailed in the report amount to a net capacity (by 2016 figures) of 16 gigawatts (GW), or approximately 5.7% of the total coal-fired US electricity generation capacity.
Coal-Fired Unit Closures Planned For 2018
Coal-Fired Unit Closures Planned For 2018
IEEFA/Seth Feister
The report concludes by saying “Indeed, the transformative shift in electricity generation across the U.S. is likely to continue as intense cost competition from renewables and natural gas continues a trend toward more coal-fired plant closures and has even led to some nuclear plant retirements over the past few years.”
This latest research brief, coupled with the glowing reports on wind and solar energy gains in the U.S. leads this writer to wonder if the administration currently residing in the White House even knows what is going on in America.
More about Coalfired power, closures in 2017, 30 million tons, 16 states, Clean energy
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