30 GW Of Unannounced Coal Unit Retirements Expected Through 2020


A new report by Virginia-based consulting firm ICF International says U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules regulating emissions from energy generation paired with low natural gas prices are projected to force the retirement of 60 GW of coal-fueled capacity through the end of 2020.

Moreover, of the capacity expected to go offline, 30 GW has not been previously announced, the report says. The projections are based on existing and proposed regulations, including the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and the Clean Power Plan, as well as expected natural gas prices.

Gas-fired units are expected to build their share of total generation at the expense of coal, ICF says, reaching 38% share by 2030, when coal will drop to 29% share. This growth is driven by additions of nearly 150 GW of new gas-fired capacity by 2030. New renewable capacity makes up the bulk of the remaining additions, the report says, with approximately 70 GW added by 2030.

‘Decisions still have to be made as the energy sector awaits final rules, adapts to international fuel markets and looks forward to changing demand dynamics,’ says Chris MacCracken, principal for ICF International. ‘Decisions on the EPA's MATS and the Clean Power Plan this summer should firm retirement decisions in the near term.’

The MATS rule is due before the U.S. Supreme Court soon, and the report says many coal-fired generation units have both near- and long-term regulatory uncertainty to struggle with in deciding to control and operate or retire. Meanwhile, the EPA is working through the nearly 4 million comments received on the Clean Power Plan proposal and will finalize the rule this summer.

More information on the ICF International report can be found here.

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