Full Title: U.S. on Track to Close Half of Coal Capacity by 2026
Author(s): Seth Feaster
Publisher(s): Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Publication Date: April 3, 2023
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The United States is rapidly approaching a milestone in the electricity sector’s energy transition: By the end of 2026, it will have closed half of its coal generation capacity, which peaked in 2011. This is now the earliest date for this milestone since IEEFA began closely tracking coal-plant retirements, and it has moved up despite pandemic-induced supply disruptions that have led to delays in the completion of new generation resources and significant price volatility for gas, both of which contributed to some shifting dates for plant closures. By another measure—actual electricity generation—the U.S. has cut coal use even faster, producing less than 50% of coal’s 2011 power level in both 2020 and 2022.
By the end of 2026, based on current announcements from utilities, coal capacity will fall to 159 gigawatts (GW), down from 318GW in 2011. It is set to fall to just 116GW by 2030. And coal generation may continue to fall faster, as aging units face higher operation and maintenance costs, and utilities increasingly favor the responsiveness of gas generation and battery storage to complement the variable output from solar and wind, both of which continue to be built at a rapid clip.