Ripe for retirement: Report targets coal plants

November 13, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

Here’s some news out this morning from the folks at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

As much as 18 percent of the country’s coal generating capacity should be considered for closure because the electricity it produces will be more expensive than energy from lower cost natural gas or wind power, according to a new independent analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The peer-reviewed study, based on publicly available data on the U.S. coal fleet, used an economic test to evaluate whether every coal generator could compete – after being upgraded with modern pollution controls – with available cleaner, lower-cost energy resources.

The report, “Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants,” found that as many as 353 coal generators, located in 31 states, may no longer be economically viable after they are upgraded with modern pollution controls. The power these generators produce would cost more than electricity produced by natural gas power plants and, in many cases, wind power. Collectively, these ripe-for-retirement generators produce approximately 6 percent of the nation’s power and represent 59 gigawatts (GW) of power generation capacity.

Steve Frenkel, report co-author and director of UCS’s Midwest office, said:

Our analysis shows that switching to cleaner energy sources and investing in energy efficiency often makes more economic sense than spending billions to extend the life of obsolete coal plants … Regulators should require utility companies to carefully consider whether ratepayers would be better off by retiring old coal plants and boosting electricity generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources like wind. Spending billions to upgrade old coal plants may simply be throwing good money after bad.

2 Responses to “Ripe for retirement: Report targets coal plants”

  1. E. clay says:

    When our socalled leaders won’t speak up and support coal by telling obama and his epa that they stand by coal, not one wv leader mentioned he was aganist obama winning reelection, one said he did not know if he supported him or not. west virginia livelyhood depends on coal, all other industries support coal most important families lives depend on it but by our leaders in washing and wv not coming out and standing for coal verberelly we’ll get sunk. 353 power plant’s to be slated for closer a tragady and a shame for west virginia.

  2. Soyedina says:

    E. clay– if you read the link you’ll see that keeping those plants open will likely mean that they become money pits.

    Plants that are candidates for retirement are typically older, less efficient, underutilized, and more polluting than the rest of the nation’s coal fleet. These generators average 45 years in age, well beyond the 30-year expected life span for a typical coal generator. These plants are less efficient, operating only at 47 percent of capacity, compared with 64 percent for the total U.S. coal fleet. In addition, 70 percent of these generators lack adequate equipment to control the emissions of at least three of the four harmful pollutants examined in the analysis (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and soot)

    If retrofit, these plants will not make a profit. They will continue to cause the utilities to raise rates to compensate for these losses. If left alone they will continue to generate pollution at a rate and quantity far greater than more efficient and less expensive forms of generation.

    Why do you think that encouraging political leaders to continue ignoring this reality is a winning proposition for anyone?

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