12,300 megawatts of coal power will shut down in the US in 2015, lots more to come

SNL Coal power plant closure map
Screen capture SNL

46,000 MW to shut down in the period between 2012-2022

Utilities in the U.S. have to comply with the EPA's new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, also known as MATS, which took effect last month. This means that many coal power plants that don't meet the new maximum emission thresholds are shutting down. So far this year through April, 4,600 megawatts of coal has been removed from the grid, and 7,700 MW are expected to follow suit during the remainder of the year, for a total of 12.3 gigawatts (not a small number, any way to slice it).

This year's closures will represent about 1/3 of all the coal shut downs since 2010. Sadly, the rate is expected to slow down after that, with 7,300 MW expected to go belly up in 2016, and another 7,000 MW planned between 2017 and 2022. Hopefully by then more will be added to the list...

But with just what has already happened since 2012 and what is planned to 2022, the total reduction in U.S. coal power capacity will have been 46,000 MW!

SNL/Screen capture

And the coal plants that will remain behind, while far from green, at least won't be quite as bad as the ones that are going away. The average age of units closing between now and 2022 is 56 years, meaning that many are less efficient and have fewer environmental controls than the surviving coal fleet.

SNL/Screen capture

The utilities that are shutting down the most coal plants are American Electric Power Co., with 6.5 gigawatts of closures planned between this year and 2022, and Tennessee Valley Authority, with 4.5 gigawatts.

We're not there yet, but a lot of progress has been made. Look at what coal (not alone, but a major player) did to the US in the 1940s:

© Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, AIS.1978.22, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

They had to power-wash buildings because they got so dirty:

© Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, AIS.1978.22, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

© Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940-1950, AIS.1978.22, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

Via SNL

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | Coal | Energy

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