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Lowest annual American coal consumption in 39 years
“Competition from increasingly abundant and affordable natural gas and renewable energy” will drive coal-plant retirements in 2018 as market forces prevail and as further coal-consumption declines are seen in 2019.
Coal industry falters in quest for workable carbon-capture technology
Costly initiatives to develop workable, economic technology to capture carbon from coal-fired generation have come up short as renewable energy and natural gas have made such work all but irrelevant.
Research: ‘Social costs’ don’t favor coal
Research by an atmospheric scientist at Rice University finds that the “social cost” of coal-fired power plants is a strong argument in itself for modernization of electricity production: “We found that the damage to public health and the climate this source of electricity causes far exceeds the money power generators earn from the electricity they sell.”
Indiana utility to shutter five remaining coal plants
Northern Indiana Public Service Company has announced plans to close its five remaining coal-fired plants and replace them with renewable electricity generation. NIPSCO, as the utility is known for short, provides power to 468,000 households and businesses. “This creates a vision for the future that is better for our customers, and it’s consistent with our goal to transition to the best cost, cleanest electric supply mix available while maintaining reliability, diversity and flexibility for technology and market changes,” said company’s president.
Private equity company ends bid to buy Navajo generating station
Private equity company Middle River Power LLC is ending its bid to buy Navajo Generating Station, the biggest coal-fired power station west of the Mississippi River.
Dwindling number of states rely primarily on coal
New research by the Energy Information Administration finds that only 18 states got more than half of their electricity from coal-powered generation in 2017, down from 28 in 2007. Nationally, natural gas accounted for 32 percent of power generation as coal’s share of the market dropped to 30 percent. “These changes have occurred as coal-fired power plants have retired or been used less and as natural gas-fired power plants have been built and used more nationwide,” the agency said.
Editorial: Innovation is preferable to stagnation
Market forces have aligned with public health concerns and environmental concerns to propel a power-generation shift that is epitomized by the impending shutdown by CPS Energy of the coal-fired J.T. Deely plant in south-central Texas. Resisting such change would prove unprofitable, writes a San Antonio editorial board: “The risk, beyond premature death or an unnecessarily warmer world, is that other nations will innovate as we stagnate.”
FirstEnergy, unable to land a bailout, says it will close plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania
FirstEnergy announced this week it will close its three remaining coal-fired power plants in Ohio and its last one in Pennsylvania. The company said the plants cannot compete with electricity produced by renewables and natural gas. Some observers cautioned that the announcement may be largely political, however, as FirstEnergy continues to seek federal subsidies to keep the plants online. “We're talking about billions of dollars being used to bail out a failing industry, when these closures are inevitable and irreversible,” one critic of that strategy said. “There are a lot better uses for that money.”
Fate of Oklahoma power plant serves as local example of national trends
Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co.’s decision not to renew a long-term power purchase agreement with the AES Shady Point coal-fired generation station puts the plant at imminent risk of closure as part of a trend that has taken root coast to coast. "That is happening all over the country," said Loyd Drain, a U.S. energy consultant. "Renewable prices have gone down so much, a lot of these coal plants around the country have operated at a loss for consumers because replacement power is cheaper."
Proposed revisions to Clean Power Plan unlikely to help iconic Montana plant
Colstrip Power Plant, which is one of the biggest power plants in the western U.S. and is struggling to survive a sea change in how electricity is generated, would probably not benefit from the Trump administration’s proposed revision to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Two of the plant’s four units are already scheduled for retirement and the other two have been closed recently for failure to comply with federal rules that are not addressed in the Trump proposal. “In terms of the big picture, it doesn’t really change the underlying pressures on the utilities, and particularly Colstrip, that are facing things like customer calls to divest in coal and restructure assets,” said one industry analyst. “It’s one thing to set policies that try to help, but it’s not a bailout and it’s not going to make power plants any younger.”
Growing awareness in southwest U.S. of rising risk to coal-heavy economies
With the U.S. coal industry “in frank decline,” the well-being of communities in the four corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is at risk as three coal-fired plants in the region becoming increasingly uncompetitive. Activists, educators and elected officials have responded by pressing for more initiatives meant to diversify the region’s economy, including a pilot scholarship project at Navajo Technical University. “This is a unique program that specifically helps communities affected by the decline in the coal industry,” said the university’s president. “It’s making many opportunities available for Navajo students, but there’s still tremendous need out there.”
Another blow to Appalachia: Expensive electricity
While the coal-based economies of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia continue to decline, the region’s electricity rates are soaring as utilities spread costs among fewer customers. Ratepayers are essentially subsidizing companies like Kentucky Power to keep outdated plants online and to clean up after those that have been retired. “They are charging us for shutting down our coal-fired plants that were keeping us all employed," said Angie Hatton, a Kentucky legislator.
Plans for a new Colorado energy economy
Plans by Xcel Energy to remake the electricity-generation industry in and around Pueblo, Colo., are being seen as a harbinger of a new energy economy. The company is seeking to close two of three coal-fired power plants in Pueblo and replace them with wind and solar facilities, a change that would create a net total of more than 50 jobs. The county, which has a population of about 165,000 and is strategically situated near major power transmission lines, is “poised to become the renewable energy hub for Colorado and likely the region,” said its director of economic development.
Kentucky Power sells $17.6 million in excess coal stockpiles
Kentucky Power’s Mitchell plant, which produces power for 168,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties, has sold $17.6 million in coal that it had stockpiled but will not burn because cheaper electricity can be produced from natural gas and renewables. The news is reflective of a downturn in eastern Kentucky’s coal industry, which employed 14,000 people in 2011 but fewer than 4,000 during the first three months of this year. “The sale comes amid a changing energy landscape in the country. In 1990, coal-fired power plants generated about 52 percent of the electricity in the country … by the end of 2017, coal’s share of national electricity generation had dropped to 30 percent.”
Coal Plant Closure in Kansas
Westar Energy will close the coal-fired Tecumseh Energy Center near Topeka on Oct. 1, several years ahead of schedule. The company said it will also shut down fossil-fuel-powered units at electricity plants in Colwich and Wichita as part of its merger with Great Plains Energy, the owner of Kansas City Power & Lighter. A Westar spokesperson said the merger, “along with the addition of renewable energy,” allows for the shutdowns, which won’t affect service.
Commentary: Navajo Generating Station remains economically unviable
Keeping the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona would come at a high cost. “Market conditions suggest an economic disaster any way you cut it, and one that that would cause pain for workers, miners, and other members of the Navajo Nation,” writes the author. “There are sensible ways to invest in a region in need of federal attention on many levels. This is not one of them.”
Midwest receives greater transition focus
JTF, long active in Appalachia and in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, sees the Illinois Basin, which underlies much of the state, as an area of growing need. “It’s important to note that what a just transition looks like is different in different places,” said Heidi Binko, JTF’s executive director.
Two ‘zombie’ coal plants in Virginia typify an industry in decline
Two aging power plants that are being kept on life support in Virginia typify the condition of much of the U.S. coal-fired electricity generation fleet. Yorktown 1 and 2, operated by Dominion Energy, are “limping along in the Virginia heat” as Dominion, which has six million customers, joins other major utility companies in turning to cleaner, more affordable options: “In this, it is no different than other utilities around the country that are similarly turning to cleaner energy sources and shutting down coal power.”
Op-ed: Embracing transition, PSC of New Mexico is acting in customers’ best interest
The Public Service Company of New Mexico, the biggest utility in the state, is doing right by its customers in planning to close the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station by 2020 and replace it with renewable resources, gas-fired generation and power-storage technology. The transition promises to provide “important and beneficial economic development opportunities for our state and its rural communities,” writes the author, who notes that the wind and solar industries have already invested $4.4 billion locally.
Federal proposals to bail out coal plants continue to fuel a backlash
Trump administration proposals to subsidize failing coal plants continue to anger the oil and gas industry, among others. Administration proposals to impose steel and aluminum tariffs will also damage the U.S. energy as a whole, critics say. One Arizona oil field services company owner said Trump’s “tortured coal policy penalizes natural gas” and that is “seems counter to what he campaigned on.”
Study: Keeping PacificCorp’s coal plants going will cost ratepayers $11.7 billion
A new study concludes that rising operational costs at PacifiCorp’s coal-fired electricity plants are hurting consumers. PacificCorp, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power, operates in six states. The study, by Utah-based Energy Strategies, calculates that keeping PacifiCorp’s aging fleet of 22 coal plants online for “the remainder of their lives” will cost $11.7 billion.
Another Kentucky coal-plant closure heralds more change to come
In announcing the retirement by 2020 of its 54-year-old coal-fired electricity plants, a Kentucky city is joining a market tide toward transition. The closure will affect 60 employees, and while the city of Owensboro will continue to get electricity from some conventional sources, it is now pursuing a solar power purchase agreement. “It’s just as in when your car gets older, or any other piece of mechanical equipment, it becomes harder and harder and more expensive to maintain it,” said a utility spokeswoman of the decision to close Elmer Smith Station.
Report: Trend away from coal-fired generation persists
A new report on global electricity-generation trends finds once-conventional forms of fuel continuing to lose market share. The shift is driven partly by U.S. corporate preferences. “Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run,” said Elena Giannakopoulou, an energy economist for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables—(and) coal gets squeezed out.”
Editorial: ‘It isn’t the job of the federal government to pick winners and losers in business’
An editorial board for a newspaper in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming has questioned the Trump administration’s controversial proposal to prop up failing coal-fired electricity generation plants. “Coal’s place in the energy sector has changed,” the editorial says. “Investing in our past will only shortchange us in the future.”
Deal moves Colstrip closer to a "post-coal" future
The Montana Public Service Commission approved a sale that moves ownership of the Colstrip Power Plant to a Canadian corporation in a deal that includes a $4.5 million payment to the city of Colstrip as part of an arrangement meant to blunt the impact of the eventual closure of the plant. Commissioners said the deal “appears to be in the public interest, for Montana consumers and the state.”
Xcel steps up date for retirement of two Colorado coal plants
Citing the “historically low” cost of renewables, Xcel Energy is pressing for state approval to close two coal-fired generators in Colorado a decade earlier than planned. The plants, part of the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, would be retired in 2022 and 2025 under the proposal, and would be replaced by a pair of existing gas-fired plants, three windfarms and five utility-scale complexes.
Pushback in West Virginia against Trump’s coal-subsidy plan
One clear result of a White House plan to subsidize failing coal plants: Bigger utility bills for households, businesses, and industry in West Virginia. Skeptics of the proposed bailout include officials with the Public Service Commission’s Consumer Advocate Division, the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, and the Natural Gas Supply Association. The plan “would definitely drive rates up,” one analyst said.
Two coal-fired units at Indiana plant close
Northern Indiana Public Service Company, which provides electricity to almost 1.3 million customers in the northern third of the state, is closing two coal-fired units at the Bailly Generating Station on the shore of Lake Michigan, effectively mothballing the station. The decision is part of the utility’s intention to close half its coal fleet by 2023. "Bailly was the first step in that plan," a company official said.
West Coast shift in energy policy undermines Wyoming’s bet on coal
As West Coast states look to power their electricity grids with cheaper and cleaner energy sources, their retreat from traditional generation models poses an existential threat to Wyoming’s coal industry. Utilities involved in the transition include regional household names like PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power. “If Oregon, Washington and California ditch coal, it may leave Wyoming’s largest utility, and its customers, holding a bag they don’t want to carry,” reports one newspaper.
Utility trends don’t bode very well for fossil-fuel-fired electricity
Two huge interstate electricity companies—Vista Energy and Dominion Energy—are at the forefront of an industry retooling that favors cheap renewable forms of generation over natural gas and coal. The trend embodies “a bearish view of fossil-fuel energy” as solar and wind farms gain market share nationally, “curbing orders for new plants and forcing the closure of old ones.”
Market forces make aging Kentucky coal plant a candidate for shutdown
Characteristic of the coal-fired electricity-generation industry nationally, a locally-sourced Kentucky plant owned by Henderson Municipal Power & Light has been all but mothballed. Expense is the prime factor as officials decide whether to keep it open: “It costs about 33 times more to produce energy from Station Two than it does to buy it on the open market.” Part of the plant has been closed already.
Court Settlement Marks End of the Road for Chicago-Area Coal Plants
A federal court settlement in Illinois closes the case on six coal-fired plants in the Chicago area that are slated to shut down or switch to natural gas. The case is of note in part because of the Trump administration’s acquiescence to the agreement. “I don't believe (coal) is going to have a renaissance," said one utility executive. "I think it's on its way out."
Moody’s: U.S. Utilities Tied to Coal-Fired Business Models Are at Risk
Broad acceptance of renewable energy will drive more coal-fired power plants out of business, says a report from Moody’s Investors Services. “Utilities may be required to shut down carbon-emitting generation assets — particularly coal plants — before the end of their useful lives,” concludes the report, which details how cost and consumer preferences are driving transition.
Commentary: ‘Modernization Is the Ticket to National Energy Security’
Most discussion around the possibility of the federal government invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950 in order to keep failing coal-fired and nuclear electricity plants alive has avoided exploring more sensible policy recommendations.
Analysis: Closure of 8 Failing Coal Plants Would Not Affect Illinois Power Grid
Continuing to subsidize eight struggling coal-fired power plants in Illinois makes no sense, concludes two researchers at the National Resource Defense Council: “Dynegy-Vistra has contrived a problem that does not exist, arguing that if its coal plants closed, electricity supply in Central and Southern Illinois would be in jeopardy and the likelihood of power outages would significantly increase. That’s simply not true.”
Opposition to Subsidies for FirstEnergy’s Plants Runs Deep
A formidable resistance has emerged to FirstEnergy Solutions’ request that the Energy Department let it raise electricity rates to keep its failing power plants alive. Opponents include the American Petroleum Institute, General Electric and Walmart. “Ultimately, it’s going to be very expensive, whether it puts the cost on ratepayers or taxpayers, all under this alleged emergency that doesn’t exist,” says one critic.
Kentucky Electric Coop, Citing Electricity Market Trends, Seeks to End 46-Year-Old Reliance on Henderson Coal Plant
Big Rivers Electric, an electricity cooperative that supplies power to 22 counties in western Kentucky, is seeking to end a contract with a Henderson coal-fired plant it has had in place since 1972. A Big Rivers spokesman said the cooperative has concluded the plant is "no longer capable of normal, continuous, reliable operation in an economic manner."
Institute Publishes a 5-Step Guide to Transition
The Delta Institute, a Chicago group that specializes in community transition, has published a five-step primer on how to redevelop old coal plant sites. “The roadmap can provide that guidance on where to start that planning process, what questions to ask, what resources might be available.”
Site of Former Coal-Fired Plant in Indiana Set for Redevelopment as a High-Tech Project
The 77-acre site of an abandoned Gary, Ind., coal-fired electricity plant that closed in 2012 is slated to become a national data-storage center. Plans call for five buildings of more than 100,000 square feet each. The project, seen as a “next chapter” for the area, will help restore $4.5 million in tax revenue lost when the State Line plant shut down.
A Post-Coal ‘Playbook’ for Shuttered Plants in Pennsylvania
The state Department of Community and Economic Development has started a program to create post-closure “playbooks” for 11 coal-fired power plants. The aim of the project is to create partnerships between the companies that own the shuttered sites and developers who want to repurpose the properties. “The documents aim to describe the land available at each plant and the cost of remediating environmental hazards there as well as offer suggestions for future use. Like all good real estate agents, officials want to help would-be buyers envision the possibilities.”
In Seeking Federal Bailout, FirstEnergy Does So at Others’ Expense
FirstEnergy’s plea for a government bailout puts the Trump administration in a difficult political position: Whether to rescue a failing industry at the expense of ratepayers and other sectors of the U.S. energy economy or let market forces determine outcomes. Saving the company “would hurt rival energy businesses and could raise electricity prices for companies and consumers across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.”
Editorial: In Praise of ‘Public Vigilance’ Around Upstate Post-Coal Transition
In upstate New York, community advocates of various stripes are pressing for public transparency around the cleanup and redevelopment of the defunct Huntley Generating Station, which must proceed “in a way that both protects and includes the public whose members will have little choice but to live with the results.” Huntley, emblematic of an increasingly uncompetitive U.S. coal-fired electricity-generation fleet, closed two years ago this month.
Arizona Lawmakers Decline to Grant Tax Bailout for Failing Navajo Generating Station
Arizona lawmakers have failed to pass a proposed tax-relief bailout for the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi. Owners of the failing operation, which employees about 750 people between the plant and its feeder mine, plan to close it next year because it cannot compete with natural gas and renewables. Activity at the plant is winding down already, and chances for finding a new owner are diminished by failure on the tax relief. One legislator who opposed the tax break said the millions in question would be better used as an economic-development appropriation to the Navajo Nation.
State Policies and Market Forces Limit What Washington Can Do to Save Coal
Trends in electricity generation are being driving increasingly by state policies that are adding to the larger momentum of market forces. Twenty-nine states have enacted requirements for more reliance on solar and wind which—combined with “the cheap price of natural gas and the rapidly falling cost of renewables,” as one analyst puts it—undermines Trump administration policies and rhetoric aimed at bringing coal-fired electricity back.
In North Carolina, Duke Energy pursues a long-term plan to drop coal
Responsible for about 60 percent of the state’s energy generation 12 years ago, coal’s share of the electricity-generation market in North Carolina has fallen to less than 30 percent, according to the most recent government data. “We take a long-term view on carbon emissions and continue to believe we will need to drive carbon out of our system,” says a representative for Duke Energy, which serves more than a third of the state’s electricity market.
Commentary: North American utility shift driven by ‘good business sense’
A recent industry survey has 80 percent of 600 utility executives in the U.S. and Canada expecting electricity generation markets to continue to embrace clean energy models in a move driven by business practicalities. “Programs to help customers save energy, and solar and wind energy are cheaper in most places than almost any other resource to meet customer energy needs, including coal and gas, and getting cheaper all the time,” writes the author.
As Washington state looks for cleaner power, a Montana coal town faces an uncertain future
As market trends continue to shrink the coal industry and plants shut down, communites are faced with the challenge of transitioning. With two of four units closing by 2022, the community of Colstrip, Montana prepares for the phaseout.
Closed Ohio Plant Sold for Redevelopment
A southern Ohio coal-fired power plant that was retired in 2014 has been sold to a real estate company that plans to redevelop the property. Terms of the transaction around the sale of the Walter C. Beckjord plant site include $750,000 for an economic-development organization in Clermont County. “We're pleased that this historic property is poised for a second act as an integral part of our community,” said the president of Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky. The plant’s first unit went online in 1952.
Commentary: As Technology Advances, Energy Economy Will Continue to Change
Keeping outdated coal-fired power plants on life support is akin to driving antiquated, inefficient automobiles, argues a columnist who describes “changing economics that once lifted coal to market-share dominance but now argue for more cost-effective alternatives.” The author, in making a case for electricity-production modernization, adds that as “technology advances, so too will the composition of our affordable energy production.”
Op-Ed: ‘Time for Navajos to Move on From Coal’
With closure looming for the Navajo Generating Station and its companion Kayenta Mine in northeastern Arizona, the Navajo Nation is faced with a “stark reality” that requires strong leadership around an economic-transition mindset. “Renewable energy is an essential part of the solution for our Navajo economy and jobs after coal,” says the writer.
Op-Ed: Three Trends That Suggest No Coal Comeback
Three distinct trends continue to work against the U.S. coal industry. One is a rapid rise of black lung among miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, where old coal seams that are increasingly difficult to tap are creating new health hazards, according to research by Stone Mountain Health Services. Two is national momentum toward retirement of the aging fleet of U.S. coal-fired electricity generation stations. Three is a Trump administration plan that is being crafted to bail out failing coal plants. “What seems clear from all three cases is that the coal industry isn’t coming back,” says the author.
Michigan’s Biggest Utility, Buyer of Wyoming Coal, Is Shifting Direction
Consumers Energy, the biggest utility in Michigan and an important customer of Wyoming mines owned by Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and Cloud Peak Energy, is phasing out its coal-fired generation in favor of other power sources. The utility supplies electricity to more than 60 percent of Michigan’s 10 million residents. “We believe we’re going to be on the right side of history on this issue,” said Consumers CEO Patti Poppe.
In $100 Million Deal, Developer Will Replace Chicago Coal Plant With Online-Shopper Warehouses
The site of a Chicago coal-fired power plant that was shuttered in 2014 has been sold to a development company that plans to spend $100 million to turn the 70-acre location into a warehouse complex for online shoppers. Crawford Power Generating Station, which opened in the 1920s, was one of the last two coal-fired plants in Chicago at the time of its closure.
2017: A Year of Growing National Momentum Against Coal Industry
Changes in utility-company policies and outright plant closures in Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin highlight the electricity-generation transition that gained momentum nationally in 2017: “While President Donald Trump’s ‘Energy Dominance’ agenda gave the false impression that federal efforts could revive coal, 27 coal-fired plants totaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity were announced for early closure or conversion in 2017 – roughly one every 15 days since Trump’s election.”
Colorado Coal-Fired Plant May Shut 17 Years Ahead of Schedule
A Northern Colorado power plant, in Larimer County, could close 17 years ahead of schedule as the result of a review by its owner, the Platte River Power Authority, which is looking at cleaner and more affordable options. The plant is a significant customer of coal producers in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
Montana Plant, $2 Million in Arrears on Local Taxes, Will Close Next Year
The owner of a relatively new coal-fired power plant in Montana says it will probably close next year after having lost money since 2014. The closing will affect about 30 people and will put the company, Heorot Power, further behind on $2 million in delinquent tax obligations to local schools and government.
Colorado City Considers Closing Coal Plant a Decade Earlier Than Planned
The City Council has directed Colorado Springs Utility to “analyze possibilities” for closing the city’s coal-fired power plant in 2025, a decade soon than planned. Colorado regulators have ruled that the 80-year-old Martin Drake Power Plant, considered a blight on the downtown area, is out of compliance with air-pollution standards.
Duke Energy Will Spend $200 Million in North Carolina to Retrofit Older Coal Plants to Burn Gas
Duke Energy Corp., in a move to keep four North Carolina coal-fired electricity plants on line, says it will spend $200 million over the next three years to retrofit the plants to burn natural gas. “It gives us the opportunity to take advantage of lower fuel costs,” a company spokesman said.
Little Progress in Campaign to Save Largest Coal Plant in the West
"Our economic assessment remains the same today," says a spokesman for one of several owners of the Navajo Generating Station. "Operating the plant beyond 2019 would not be beneficial for their customers."
No Takers for Power Plant in Arizona
Peabody Energy, which is seeking to find a buyer to save the Arizona power plant it is supplying from closure, has not found any takers. The Navajo Nation leases the site of the Navajo Generating Station to a group of utilities that are losing money on the plant, which employees almost 1,000 people, including those who work for the mine that feeds it.