By SNL’s Michael Niven and Neil Powell
With a 2015 deadline looming for compliance with the U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, U.S. power generators are continuing to refine their plans for noncompliant coal units, albeit in relatively slow and methodical fashion.
After a heavy year for coal unit retirements in 2012 when a whopping 8,800 MW of coal capacity was
permanently shuttered, retirements have come at a slower pace so far in 2013.
According to SNL Energy data, about 1,258 MW of coal capacity has been retired in 2013, as of mid-August, and an additional 4,523 MW is scheduled for retirement by end of year. Assuming the planned retirements stay on schedule, roughly 5,781 MW of coal capacity is currently planned to be shuttered in 2013, or 34% less than in 2012.
Planned coal unit retirements, as defined by SNL Energy for this analysis, include those with a firm retirement year that was either publicly disclosed by the company or confirmed by SNL.
While the pace of retirements has slowed compared to 2012, the amount of coal capacity slated to close this year has actually increased substantially compared to SNL Energy’s last analysis published in late January. At that time, only 1,756 MW of coal capacity was announced for closure in 2013, compared to the 5,781 MW identified in the latest analysis.
The biggest change since the last analysis was the addition of nearly 2,000 MW of capacity to be closed by FirstEnergy Corp. The company announced in July that it would close its Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell coal plants due to the high cost to comply with new federal air pollution rules, coupled with low electricity demand.
Coal unit conversions
From mid-August 2013 through the end of 2022, U.S. power companies have formalized plans to permanently retire nearly 28,000 MW of coal-fired generating capacity, according to SNL Energy’s analysis. But those future retirements provide just part of the picture of the rapidly changing coal generation landscape.
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