Coal, Policy & Regulations

EIA: More Than 80 Percent of 2015’s Retired Generating Capacity was Coal-Fired

American Electric Power AEP retire Tanners Creek coal-fired power plant Indiana Michigan Power

Nearly 18 GW of electric generating capacity was retired in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and more than 80 percent of that was coal-fired.

About 30 percent of those coal retirements happened in April after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule went into effect.

According to the EIA, some plants applied for and received one-year extensions and will retire this April.  Several plants received additional extensions beyond April 2016 based on their roles in grid reliability.

According to the EIA, much of the country’s existing coal capacity was built between 1950 and 1990.  Coal units that were shuttered in 2015 were primarily built between 1950 and 1970.  The average age of those units was 54 years.  The average age of the country’s remaining coal-fired plants is 38 years.

The EIA reports the retired coal units were smaller than the rest of the country’s fleet, with the net summer capacity of those units averaging just 133 MW compared to the 278 MW for the rest of the coal units still operating.

Nearly half of the country’s coal capacity that retired in 2015 was in Ohio, Georgia and Kentucky.  Each of those states retired at least 10 percent of their coal capacity last year.

Other states with traditionally high levels of coal-fired generation, including Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia, each retired at least 1 GW.