Is coal dead?

Which plants are slated for closure or switches to natural gas.


In 2003, the U.S. got more than half of its electricity from coal, but low natural gas prices, state renewable energy standards and enforcement of long-standing federal haze and mercury regulations have spurred the retirement of aging plants. Coal-fired power now supplies 39 percent of the U.S. electricity market – still more than any other source, but the downward trend continues.

Will the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan deal coal its final, fatal blow? Not right away: States won't finish formulating their plans until 2016 or later, when it should become clear which additional coal plants will be retired. Some might not have to: Arizona, for instance, could realize most of its reductions by tapping its underutilized natural gas capacity to replace coal. But if it instead brought more renewables online and implemented ambitious efficiency measures, it might be able to keep more coal.

Still, any limit on carbon is bad news for coal. Without the regulation, a Moody's Investors Services report reasoned, coal's contribution to the U.S. electricity market might not grow, but it wouldn't shrink drastically, either. With the limits, it's likely to drop more steeply. That makes access to foreign markets – through controversial West Coast ports – even more important to Powder River Basin mines.

Bruce Vojtecky
Bruce Vojtecky Subscriber
Jul 21, 2014 08:56 AM
In the WTE it stated Wyoming had the lowest renewable requirement, 19%. With all the proposed windfarms that are being built in the state, Wyoming might reach the goal of 50% or better from renewables without closing a single coal plant.
Of course having low population alows us to have not only the 400 foot tall behemoth windfarms but many 100 foot personal windmills in our yards.
Gary Snider
Gary Snider Subscriber
Jul 22, 2014 08:00 PM
Yes but -- I believe I heard something about conflicts between wind farms and sage grouse. Methinks nothing is is simple as first thought.
Amos Eno
Amos Eno
Jul 24, 2014 02:35 PM
@Gary Indeed, if you think of it in terms of land disturbed/kw of energy generated wind farms are actually worse for sage grouse than o&g well pads (not that those are good). And functionally, the habitat disturbance area of both is larger than the physical footprint because sage grouse tend avoid tall structures they perceive as perches for birds of prey.