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Retirements of coal-fired electric power generation capacity are set to speed up this year from a relatively low level of retirements in 2021 to the point of accounting for as much as 85 percent of all capacity retirements in the United States in 2022, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday.
This year, power plant operators have scheduled 12.6 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity for retirement, out of the total 14.9 GW capacity slated to stop operations. The expected coal capacity to be retired in 2022 accounts for 6 percent of the coal-fired generating capacity that was operating at the end of 2021, the EIA said in its latest inventory of electric generators.
Coal retirements averaged 11 GW annually between 2015 and 2020, but slowed to 4.6 GW in 2021. This year, the pace of coal retirements will pick up again, the administration said, noting that old coal power generators have faced increased competition on costs, efficiency, and emissions from natural gas and renewables.
Coal made what analysts describe as a transitory comeback last year, predominantly due to the higher prices of natural gas, which traded in 2021 at double the average price for 2020.
Due to soaring coal-fired power generation in America in 2021, U.S. economy-wide emissions jumped last year from the low levels in 2020 due to the COVID lockdowns, independent research provider Rhodium Group said in preliminary estimates earlier this week. Greenhouse gas emissions rose faster than the growth in U.S. economy last year, largely due to a jump in coal-fired power generation, which increased by 17 percent from 2020, and a rapid rebound in road transportation, primarily freight, Rhodium Group said.
This year, the largest U.S. coal power plant planning to retire is the 1,305-megawatt (MW) William H. Zimmer plant in Ohio. Morgantown Generating Station in Maryland plans to retire its two coal-fired units (1,205 MW combined) in June, followed by two of the plant’s six smaller petroleum-fired units in September, the EIA said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.