U.S. power companies expect to retire or convert from coal to gas almost 8,000 megawatts of coal-fired plants in 2017 after shutting almost 13,000 MW in 2016, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration and Thomson Reuters data.
In 2015, power companies shut almost 18,000 MW of coal-fired generation, the most in any year. U.S. coal power capacity peaked around 318,000 MW in 2011, according to EIA data.
It has declined every year since and was expected to fall to around 259,000 MW by the end of 2017. The total generating capacity in the United States – including coal, natural gas, renewables and nuclear, was almost 1.1 million MW in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.
Cheap gas from record shale production over the past decade has kept power prices low, making it uneconomic for generators to upgrade older coal plants to meet increasingly strict federal and state environmental rules.
Coal had been the primary fuel source for U.S. power plants for the last century, but its use has been declining since peaking in 2007. That was around the same time drillers started pulling gas out of shale formations.
Gas overtook coal as the leading fuel for U.S. power plants in 2016 when coal used to produce electricity fell to the lowest level since 1982, according to federal data. In 2016 coal-fired generators produced 30% of the nation’s total generation, down from over 50% in 2003. Gas, meanwhile, fueled about 34% in its biggest year ever for U.S. power production.
It takes roughly 175 million cubic feet of gas per day to generate about 1,000 MW, which can power about 1 million homes. The following lists the U.S. coal plants expected to shut or be converted to other fuels over roughly the next decade.