Coal power shows zero growth in 2014, report shows | RenewEconomy

Coal power shows zero growth in 2014, report shows

The last year in which there were no additions to coal power generating capacity in the U.S. was 1998.


Climate Central

Natural gas and solar are the winners so far in 2014 in the race to move electric power generation away from coal, a new U.S. Energy Information Administration report shows.

As utilities across the U.S. have added new electric power generating capacity, most of that added capacity has come from natural gas and solar. No new coal power-generating capacity has been added yet in 2014, though two small plants are expected to open this year in North Dakota and Mississippi.

rsz_assets-climatecentral-org-images-uploads-news-09_12_2014_bobby_magill_power_plant_capacity-500x272The last year in which there were no additions to coal power generating capacity in the U.S. was 1998, according to EIA data.

The dearth of interest in opening new coal-fired power plants comes from increased competition from natural gas as a fuel for electric power plants andpending emissions regulationsthat would limit mercury, toxic metals, acid gas and other toxic air emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also in the process of writing a new regulation that would limit CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Called the Clean Power Plan, the regulation would set CO2 emissions reductions goals for power plants in each state.

New natural gas-fueled power generators are quickly coming online across the country as the U.S. continues its move away from coal.

Natural gas produced from the U.S. fracking boom is fueling many new power plants nationwide, and it is often seen as a more climate-friendly alternative to coal-fired power plants because it emits relatively little carbon dioxide. Natural gas distribution systems, however, leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

The U.S. added nearly 2,200 megawatts of natural gas power generating capacity in the first six months of 2014, up 60 percent over the same period in 2013, according to the EIA report.

Solar is growing fast, too, as more than 1,100 megawatts of new solar power generating capacity came online in the first six months of 2014, up 70 percent over the same period last year.

New wind power capacity grew less than half as much as solar early this year. Wind farms added 675 megawatts of wind power capacity in that time, all from new wind turbines built in California, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota.


Source: Climate Central. Reproduced with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. RobS 6 years ago

    The headline is not strictly correct. According to the EIA 947MW of Coal generation capacity has been retired in 2014 so far so Coal generation capacity has not shown zero growth it has shown negative growth.

  2. Clarkie 6 years ago

    It is interesting to note that the last time an order was placed for a major coal fired power station in NSW was in February 1979! That is 35 years ago! The last big unit to be commissioned was in the mid nineties.

    Any new major coal fired generation plant for NSW is not viable at the moment and
    maybe never will be. However, the 10 X 660-700 MW units at Eraring, Bayswater
    and Mount Piper power stations are probably capable of Plant Improvement and Life Extension (P.I.L.E.) for quite a few years yet, if not decades.

    Whether plant refurbishment proceeds or not at any point in time will be a business
    decision based on many factors. I would like to think that such decisions would be based on their economic merit and not be handicapped by the pursuit of Renewable Energy as an end in itself. For Australia has made a bigger sacrifice than most other nations. Stay with me: Presently about two thirds of Australia’s electricity is generated from coal fired power stations. That compares with a figure of 97% several years ago. At that same time the US generated just 43% of its electricity from coal fired power stations and while this % figure has declined somewhat, it is nothing like the Australian effort which at times has been twice as hard or twice as fast or twice the cost of the efforts of others. Other countries do not compare with their efforts.

    In the meantime the cost of electricity in Australia has increased from one of the lowest to one that is quite expensive. There are a number of reasons for that and the RET is responsible for only a small percentage of this.

    Given the challenges the electricity industry is currently facing, there are going to be
    shakeouts, restructuring, maybe fire-sales, and winners and losers. In the same way that we say that it is time to review how we value and price electricity, perhaps the same can be said about emissions and RET.

    Warburton has made a good start by identifying economic realities but has not gone far enough. We need to allow some growth in wind turbines to maintain our
    manufacturing base and we need to extend the RET target date with a view to
    softening the economic impacts on the numerous stakeholders. Moreover, it makes little sense to strand $B’s coal fired power station assets which could continue to give economic service for decades to come

    They say “oils ain’t oils”. Indeed the efforts needed to reduce emissions from electricity generation will vary from state to state and from nation to nation. Perhaps it is time to think about equal efforts in reducing these emissions rather than equal targets, costs and timeframes.

    If it is about making an equal effort to reduce emissions, Australia can hold its head up high. And perhaps that is not a bad singular guiding principle for state and federal policy formation concerning the nation’s role in reducing global emissions from electricity generation.

    • Alen 6 years ago

      I really have to disagree with you and in my opinion a few years of promising moves towards decarbonising our electricity sector does not at all equal a right for “Australia to hold its head up high”, especially now that there is (was) momentum towards a changing electricity sector but has been stopped in its tracks and effectively killed for absolutely no good reason at all. The Warburton report also did a quite poor job in identifying economic realities in its RET review,, ignoring climate risks in in its review report is just idiotic and can only result in a fundamentally flawed report.

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.