Trump surprised by second highest ever US coal plant retirements

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (found via the good folks at Cleantechnica) reports that coal power plant closures will hit their second highest year on record, at least as far as capacity is concerned:

This year’s widespread closures were headlined by the retirement of four massive Vistra plants in the ERCOT (Texas) market. Coal plants retiring this year produced 127,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2017, enough to power 12 million homes.

And nobody appears to be in a rush to be building new capacity either. Interestingly, alongside competition from cheaper natural gas, Bloomberg New Energy Finance points to the “zero marginal cost” nature of renewables as one of the factors putting pressure on the viability of coal. The fact that solar and wind have extremely low marginal costs once they are up and running means they can afford to undercut coal for baseload power at almost any price—leading to what some have referred to as “death by capacity factor”.

President Donald Trump pledged to revive the beleaguered American coal industry and put miners back to work.

Although coal production and exports ticked up in 2017, but mining employment barely budged and coal-fired power plants continued to close and closures accelerated in 2018.

These changes were largely due to market forces, not White House policy.

It looks like the pro-coal folks in Washington DC may have their work cut out if they’re going to reverse a trend that appears to be accelerating around the world.

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