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The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a nonprofit science advocacy group based in the United States, has written a report that analyses America’s coal power plants and determines that 353 of them, across 31 states, should be considered for closing due to their inability to remain economically competitive with emerging, cleaner sources of energy.
The report, named ‘Ripe for Retirement’, suggests that 18% of all US coal-fired power plants, will not be competitive with natural gas or wind energy.
The power plants that it speaks of have an average age of 45 years, far more than the expected 30 year life span of a coal power plant, and are much less efficient than other coal plants, generally operating at 47% capacity, rather than the industry average of 64%.
Most importantly, the list of 353 power plants were some of the dirtiest in the country, lacking carbon reduction equipment, and the ability to filter harmful pollutants, such as; sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, or soot, from the emissions.
Closing the 353 power plants, in addition to the 41GW of coal plants already listed for closure, would reduce annual carbon emissions in the SU by around 410 million tonnes.
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Steve Frenkel, of UCS, has said 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,” which can often be an example of “throwing good money after bad.”
Closing such a large capacity of energy production in the US may raise questions as to what energy source will replace the old coal plants, and how much will it cost? Surely not replacing the capacity would leave the country at risk of black outs. However the UCS report states that retiring the 353 plants would not risk grid reliability or cause spikes in electricity prices.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com