U.S. coal-fired power plant shutdowns intensify, can Trump deliver on his promise?

Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to support coal-fired power plants, U.S. coal-fired power plants will close in 2019 at the second fastest rate on record, according to federal data. Preliminary statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that power companies have eliminated or converted about 151,000 megawatts of coal-fired power, enough to power about 15 million homes, according to preliminary statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s second only to the record 193,000 megawatts that were shut down during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015.

U.S. coal-fired power plant shutdowns intensify, can Trump deliver on his promise?

Replacing coal with natural gas and renewable energy has reduced America’s carbon emissions in four of the past five years. Natural gas emits about half as much as coal, which is responsible for global warming.

The coal industry has been falling sharply for a decade amid competition from cheap and abundant natural gas, competition from subsidized solar and wind energy, and growing public concern about the contribution of coal to climate change.

Mr. Trump played down the threat of climate change and sought to revive the coal industry in an effort to deliver on promises to voters in coal-producing states such as West Virginia and Wyoming, largely by eliminating Obama-era environmental protections.

Still, an estimated 39,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants have closed since coming to power in 2017.

If this trend continues, the first four years of Trump’s presidency (2017-2020) will shut down more coal-fired power plants — an estimated 46,600 megawatts — more than about 43,100 megawatts in Obama’s second term (2013-2016).

Last week, power and transmission companies in three states announced they would accelerate the closure of two coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico as Colorado and New Mexico pursued ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions.

Climate change-related emissions in the US fell by 2.1 per cent in 2019 and coal-fired power generation fell 18 per cent to its lowest level since 1975, according to estimates by Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

But with many of the remaining facilities commercially competitive, further deep cuts in emissions from coal decommissioning projects will be more difficult to achieve, the firm said.