Coal-Fired Power Plant Retirements Picked Up in 2018

by | Dec 21, 2018


(Photo: Xcel decommissioned this Denver coal-fired power unit in 2013. Credit: Will von Dauster, NOAA)

Utilities and organizations with onsite energy generation continued to phase out coal-fired plants in 2018. Announcements made throughout the year included plans to switch to renewables.

In February, Michigan’s largest energy provider Consumers Energy said it would completely stop using coal for electricity generation by 2040. By then, at least 40% of the energy produced would come from renewable sources, the utility added.

Previously Consumers Energy closed seven of their 12 coal-fired generating plants, saving ratepayers $38 million.

“Utilities are making decisions by looking at what ratepayers want, what shareholders are seeking and what their largest customers are seeking and positioning themselves to respond,” Dan Scripps, senior advisor with the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, told Midwest Energy News at the time.

Duke Energy, which provides electricity to 7.6 million retail customers in six states, reported in May that their renewable energy capacity grew by almost 20% last year. In 2005, 58% of the power Duke Energy produced came from coal. By 2017 that was down to 33%. The utility’s 2030 goal is to have coal account for no more than 20% of power produced.

In September, Duke Energy filed plans with North Carolina regulators that had plans to close seven coal plants in the state over the next 30 years. “As we lower our carbon footprint, Duke Energy is increasingly moving away from coal-fired generation and we are not including the addition of coal-fired generation going forward,” Meredith Archie, a spokeswoman for the utility, told the Charlotte Observer.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s Public Utility Commission approved Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan to phase out 660 MW of coal-fired generation by 2026 and increase renewable resources. Under the plan filed in June, Xcel is aiming to reach 53% renewables by 2026. Over the next eight years, two coal-fired plants are getting phased out.

Xcel also struck a deal in early August to install an onsite 240-MW solar facility for Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo. This agreement should help the utility retire coal-fired generation at their Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, Colorado.

Overseas, Scottish Power became the first integrated energy company in the United Kingdom to completely exit coal and gas generation when they sold off their remaining traditional gas-fired power stations. “We need to invest in the cheapest forms of energy — that’s onshore wind, offshore wind, it’s going to be solar — and that will help drive down the cost of energy,” ScottishPower CEO Keith Anderson told the Guardian.

Organizations Phase Out Coal

Utilities weren’t the only ones. This year, Kimberly-Clark Corporation invested more than $150 million in energy upgrades for their Chester, Pennsylvania, mill, which included replacing an onsite coal-fired plant with a more efficient gas-fired one. This particular mill produces 2 million rolls of toilet paper every day.

American colleges and universities also moved away from coal. In September, the University of Notre Dame projected that their effort to stop burning coal would be achieved by mid-2019 — a full year ahead of schedule, the South Bend Tribune reported.

“The university will replace its coal-fired plant with two 5.5-megawatt natural gas turbines, and is pursuing other renewable and recoverable energy projects,” journalist Caleb Bauer wrote.

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