Nuclear, coal will account for majority of US generating capacity retirements in 2021

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January 13 (Renewables Now) - According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest inventory of electric generators, 9.1 GW of electric generating capacity is scheduled to retire in 2021. Nuclear generating capacity will account for the largest share of total capacity retirements (56%), followed by coal (30%).

Nuclear. At 5.1 GW, nuclear capacity retirements represent half of all total expected retirements in 2021 and 5% of the current operating US nuclear generating capacity. The Exelon Corporation is scheduled to retire two of its Illinois nuclear plants, Dresden and Byron. Each of these plants has two reactors, and their total combined capacity is 4.1 GW. The Unit 3 (1.0 GW) reactor at Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York state is scheduled to retire in April. If all five reactors close as scheduled, 2021 will set a record for the most annual nuclear capacity retirements ever. The decrease of US nuclear power generating capacity is a result of historically low natural gas prices, limited growth in electricity demand, and increasing competition from renewable energy.

planned U.S. electric generating capacity retirements

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, October 2020

Coal. After substantial retirements of coal-fired electric generating capacity over the past five years, totaling 48 GW, coal retirements will slow in 2021; 2.7 GW of coal-fired capacity is scheduled to retire, which accounts for 1% of the US coal fleet. These retirements will come primarily from older units—the capacity-weighted average age of retiring coal units is more than 51 years old. Nearly two-thirds of the capacity retirements are located in just four states: Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, and Wisconsin. The largest coal retirement in 2021 will be at Chalk Point in Maryland, where both of its coal-fired units (670 MW combined) are expected to retire. The next-largest retirements will be at Big Bend (Unit ST2) in Florida, Bridgeport Station (Unit 3) in Connecticut, and Genoa in Wisconsin.

Petroleum and others. More than 800 MW of petroleum-fired capacity and 253 MW of natural gas-fired capacity are scheduled to retire in 2021. Almost all of the retiring petroleum capacity will be from the 786 MW unit at Possum Point in Virginia. The largest natural gas retirement will be McKee Run (103 MW) in Delaware. After operating for 34 years, a 143 MW biomass waste-to-energy plant in Southport, North Carolina, will retire in March.

U.S. electric generating capacity retirements

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, October 2020
Note: GW=gigawatts, MW=megawatts.

The planned retirement capacity values are reported to EIA by respondents to EIA’s annual and monthly electric generator surveys.

Principal contributor: Suparna Ray

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides a wide range of information and data products covering energy production, stocks, demand, imports, exports, and prices; and prepares analyses and special reports on topics of current interest.

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