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Road to Decarbonization: U.S. Coal Plant Closures

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Road to Decarbonization: U.S. Coal Plant Closures


As the push to decarbonize starts to kick into gear in the U.S., how do coal plant closures factor into the equation?

With a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the U.S. is examining all aspects of its economy to see where action is needed. In the automotive industry, for example, the Biden administration is aiming for half of new vehicles to be electric by 2030, following in the footsteps of automakers that have made similar commitments.

But in the power sector that supplies electricity for much of the country, fossil fuels continue to be large emission sources. Coal, which accounted for just 19% of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2020, created 54% of the power sector’s emissions.

That’s leading to U.S. utilities feeling the pressure to retire coal plants and look for alternatives. This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council visualizes the coal plant closures that have been announced, and how much power will be affected as a result.

Where Are U.S. Coal Plant Closures Happening?

Accurately tracking coal plant closures currently means turning to non-profits and parsing through company reports. To assemble this list, we leveraged the Global Energy Monitor and Carbon Brief and cross-referenced against company sustainability reports and news releases.

The result? 80 coal plants with a total capacity of 98.3 GW publicly scheduled for full retirement over the next three decades.

Plant State Retirement Date Capacity (MW)
Burlington IA 2021 212
Dolet Hills LA 2021 721
AES Hawaii HI 2022 204
Coal Creek ND 2022 1,210
E.D. Edwards IL 2022 645
Edgewater WI 2022 414
Fayette* (announced not confirmed) TX 2022 1,690
Heskett ND 2022 115
Joppa IL 2022 1,100
Meramec MO 2022 924
San Juan NM 2022 924
St. Clair MI 2022 1,210
Taconite Harbor MN 2022 168
Trenton Channel MI 2022 536
A.B. Brown IN 2023 530
Big Bend FL 2023 1,824
Bull Run TN 2023 950
Chesterfield VA 2023 1,053
Karn MI 2023 516
Lawrence KS 2023 517
Martin Drake CO 2023 207
Merom IN 2023 1,080
North Omaha NE 2023 354
North Valmy NV 2023 567
Schahfer IN 2023 1,944
Columbia WI 2024 1,112
G.G. Allen NC 2024 1,155
South Oak Creek WI 2024 1,240
Baldwin IL 2025 1,260
Brunner Island PA 2025 1,558
Centralia WA 2025 1,460
Cholla AZ 2025 840
Clover VA 2025 848
Herbert Wagner MD 2025 495
Intermountain UT 2025 1,640
Nauhgton WY 2025 448
Prairie Creek IA 2025 50
Northeastern OK 2026 473
AES Puerto Rico PR 2027 510
Colstrip MT 2027 2,272
Kincaid IL 2027 1,319
Miami Fort OH 2027 1,115
Morgantown MD 2027 1,252
Newton IL 2027 1,235
Victor J. Daniel MS 2027 1,097
Winyah SC 2027 1,260
Zimmer OH 2027 1,426
Allen S. King MN 2028 598
Cayuga IN 2028 1,062
Craig CO 2028 1,427
Hayden CO 2028 466
Michigan City IN 2028 540
Pawnee CO 2028 552
Rockport IN 2028 2,600
Sioux MO 2028 1,099
White Bluff AR 2028 1,800
Belle River MI 2030 1,396
Bonanza UT 2030 500
Independence AR 2030 1,800
Ray Nixon CO 2030 207
Sherburne County MN 2030 2,469
Four Corners NM 2031 1,636
Cumberland TN 2035 2,600
Gallatin TN 2035 1,255
Kingston TN 2035 1,700
Marshall NC 2035 1,996
Shawnee TN 2035 1,750
Jim Bridger WY 2037 2,441
Gibson IN 2038 3,340
Belews Creek NC 2039 2,160
Iatan MO 2039 1,725
Jeffrey KS 2039 2,160
La Cygne KS 2039 1,599
Rush Island MO 2039 1,242
Comanche CO 2040 1,636
J. H. Campbell MI 2040 1,540
Monroe MI 2040 3,280
Ladabie MO 2042 2,389
Petersburg IN 2042 2,147
James E. Rogers NC 2049 1,481

Noticeably, most of the coal plant closures are targeted in the Midwest (which uses the most coal for power). And most of the retirements are coming early, with the 2020s seeing more than half of announced closures and retired capacity (53.6 GW).

But the largest coal plants with announced retirement dates are currently scheduled for the 2030s and 2040s. That includes Duke Energy’s Gibson power plant in Indiana, the fifth largest coal plant in the U.S. and the largest with a retirement date.

What’s Next for U.S. Decarbonization?

Though it seems like the U.S. has a lot of coal plant closures announced, there’s a lot left to go.

The 98.3 GW of tracked coal plant closures is just 45% of U.S. coal electricity production in 2020. Though many utilities have talked about eventually assessing and planning retirements for some of the remaining 55%, no concrete plans have been announced yet.

“In our industry, deciding to exit coal-fired power is not taken lightly,” said Omaya Ahmad, Sustainability Policy Consultant at Arizona Public Service. “Our coal plants are often the oldest in our fleet and are largely the reason our service territories have grown and flourished into what they are today. However, the pressures presented by climate change and the economic demands tied to coal have required a commitment to transition to clean energy.”

Coal Plant Closures Are Part of a Larger Equation

But as Ahmad explains, turning off coal plants is not such a quick-and-easy fix.

“Such a transition will be a lofty undertaking and will not come without its own challenges,” said Ahmad. “Recognizing the regional transition landscape and timeline depicted on a map like this one will help utilities adequately prepare for and support their coal communities as we all take steps to reach a clean energy economy.”

And coal plants are just one part of the decarbonization equation. Some utilities are opting to transform coal power plants into natural gas plants, which are more cost-efficient and emit less than coal. Even though many utilities and consumers are turning away from carbon emitting fuel sources entirely, there are more than 200 new natural gas plants planned in the U.S.

But the big question is how the generated electricity from coal will be replaced. Communities that rely on coal for power (and economic strength) will have to turn to natural gas or work on renewables capacity, while others have already started the transition.

National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.



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