Changing Market Drives Decreased Coal Plant Use

Coal electricity generation plants have been closing in record numbers, and in 2016 coal plants accounted for only 30 percent of total generation output. Recent coal plants closures have been because of decreased demand, competition from inexpensive natural gas, and growth of renewable energy alternatives, according to a recent report by M.J. Bradley & Associates, an energy consulting company with offices in Concord, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

The report, which relied on multiple studies, cites affordable natural gas as the cause for 49 percent of the decline in coal use; decreased demand, 26 percent; and growth of renewable energy 18 percent.

Coal continues to trend downward in use. In 2008, coal plants had a 73 percent capacity factor; in 2016 the capacity factor decreased to 53 percent. During that same time, natural gas combined-cycle plants increased from 40 percent capacity factor to 56 percent.

Despite concerns about reliability of power grid stability during this shift away from coal, M.J. Bradley reported that the U.S. power grid remains stable. The M.J. Bradley report states grid operators that are using new technologies to bolster reliability and flexibility within a modern, dynamic power grid. The report also urges regulators, system planners and operators to continue assessing grid needs and incorporate new technological solutions with market design and system coordination to ensure America has a clean, affordable and reliable electric grid.

Visit M.J. Bradley to read the full report, titled “Coal-Fired Electricity Generation in the United States and Future Outlook.”

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