Coal Plant Owners Seek to Shut 3.2 GW in PJM in Face of Economic, Regulatory and Market Pressures | Emissions News
Published March 22, 2022 | News
Ethan Howland reports in Utility Dive that power plant owners have started the process of potentially retiring 3,228 MW of coal-fired generation in the PJM Interconnection’s footprint this month, according to the grid operator’s generator deactivation list. Another 1,024 MW of coal shut down last year.
A majority of that capacity belongs to Energy Harbor, which last week said it plans to shutter or sell its 1,278-MW coal-fired Pleasants units in West Virginia as well as its 1,491-MW coal-fired Sammis units, and 13-MW Sammis diesel unit, which are in Ohio, by mid-2023.
Based on public information, PJM’s coal-fired capacity is expected to fall from about 50,000 MW to 25,000 MW by 2030 and to about 22,000 MW by 2036, according to analysts with ESAI Power. The consulting firm deems another 12,000 MW to be at risk of retiring by 2040, which would bring coal-fired generation in PJM to 10,000 MW.
Looking at the explanations for the planned retirements, Julia Criscuolo, Manager of Renewables and Emissions at ESAI Power, said about a third are driven by environmental regulations, a quarter by unfavorable economics and roughly 20% by “end of life” plant issues. Some of the latest pressure on coal-fired generation is coming from the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal ash and water discharge rules, Criscuolo said.
The agency, in January, proposed denying requests from three Midwest coal-fired power plants to continue dumping coal ash in unlined surface impoundments, a move that could lead to the plants’ early retirements. More proposed decisions on individual power plants are expected in the coming months.
“Looking at history, I think these [EPA] rules have driven retirements in the past,” Julia said, pointing to the agency’s mercury and air toxics standards, which contributed to a wave of coal plant retirements starting around 2015.