US utilities are scheduled to take 11,400 MW of coal-fired power plant capacity offline in 2018. An additional 19,800 MW of coal-fired power plant capacity is also scheduled to go offline from 2019 to 2022. According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, approximately 40% of America’s coal-fired plants have been either shut down or designed for closure since 2010.
Why are utilities abandoning “king coal”? Economics! Approximately 88% of the coal-fueled power plants were built before 1990. These power plants are nearing the end of their projected forty year service life. Older power plants usually have higher maintenance costs, than new plants. The cost to transport coal by rail far exceeds the cost of the actual fuel. Over the past decade the cost to generate electricity from wind and solar power have dropped significantly due to new technology.
In January 2018, a Minnesota utility received a price bid of 2.1 cents per kWh for wind plus storage power and 3.6 cents per kWh for solar plus storage power. Utilities across the United States are receiving bids of 1.1 cents to 1.8 cents per kWh for wind power and 2.3 cents to 2.7 cents per kWh for solar power. Wind and solar energy, including storage are now significantly cheaper and coal-fueled power. Unlike coal, wind and solar energy emit virtually no greenhouse gases.