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article imageCoal-fired power plants continue to decline, despite EPA ruling

By Karen Graham     Oct 20, 2017 in Business
Luminant, the state of Texas' largest energy supplier has announced it would close three coal-fired power plants in early 2018. Combined, they account for 12 percent of the state's coal power plant capacity.
According to the Dallas News, the Big Brown Plant southeast of Corsicana and Sandow Plant northeast of Austin would close in January and February of next year. A week ago, Luminant announced it was shutting down its Monticello Plant near Mount Pleasant.
Together, the closure of the three plants will remove more than 4,200 megawatts (MW) of coal-generated power, enough to supply electricity to more than four million homes and lead to about 950 people losing their jobs.
As Engadget points out, the news of the Texas plant closures boosts the expected capacity of 2018 power plant closures to over 13,600 MW or a whopping 79 percent more than the known closures for this year. If we were to add the almost 18,000 MW that went offline in 2015, it is clear the trend is more closures in the future.
The coal-fired Fayette Power Project in Fayette County  Texas is but one of many coal power plants i...
The coal-fired Fayette Power Project in Fayette County, Texas is but one of many coal power plants in the state.
Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Luminant officials speak out on the closures
Without mincing words, Luminant officials blame cheap natural gas and the "oversupplied" renewable energy market for the closings. They also point to low prices today for both natural gas and electricity. And it is obvious to Luminant that coal-fired power plants just aren't economical anymore.
According to the financial advisory firm, Lazard, electricity from a coal-fired power plant costs from $60 to $143 per megawatt hour, compared to $48 to $78 for natural gas, while the unsubsidized cost for wind power was $32 to $62.
"Though the long-term economic viability of these plants has been in question for some time, our yearlong analysis indicates this announcement is now necessary," according to a statement from Curt Morgan, president, and CEO of Luminant parent company, Vista Energy Corp.
Needless to say, but the three power plant closures will slash the company's coal generating capacity by 37 percent. Another Texas coal-fired power plant, CPS Energy's J.T. Deely, is scheduled to close at the end of 2018. This closure was announced in 2013 and would remove another 840 megawatts of coal capacity, or a bit more than 4 percent of the state's total.
Scott Pruitt signing the proposal that would begin the lengthy legal process of rolling back the Cle...
Scott Pruitt signing the proposal that would begin the lengthy legal process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan rules enacted under president Obama.
Scott Pruitt - EPA
Scrapping the Clean Power Plan is no help
On Tuesday this week, EPA head, Scott Pruitt said he wanted to ease pressure on the coal industry by doing away with a package of rules put in place under President Barack Obama, known collectively as the Clean Power Plan. The plan sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
But fossil fuel companies and a few states have fought to keep the rules from being put in place as law. However, despite then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign promise to resurrect the failing coal industry in the U.S., and the decline of coal worldwide, doing away with a Clean Power Plan, as well as pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is not going to change the downward demise of the coal industry in this country.
Simply put, the recent decline in coal-fired power plants suggests that coal may be on an irreversible slide, and that clean energy tech like solar and wind power is still the future.
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