OPINION | Coal’s gold watch

Several factors are forcing many coal plants into retirement (hence the title’s gold watch reference). According to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, 110 coal plants in the U.S. have announced planned retirements since January 1, 2010. This represents 328 coal-fired units and 45,751 MW of energy generating capacity, roughly 13.5% of the total coal-fired generating capacity in the U.S.These pending shutdowns have been playing out particularly in Ohio and northeast Illinois. The entity that manages the electricity grid in the region, PJM Interconnection (the Mid-Atlantic’s version of our Midwest Independent System Operator), recently held an auction to determine power prices for the 2015-16 cycle.Prior to the auction, Midwest Generation announced that two of its coal plants in Chicago will close down this September, and Amaren Corp has threatened to shutdown several more in Illinois because they are no longer economical to run with the costs of environmental upgrades. First Energy also announced plans shortly before the auction to close four coal plants in Ohio for similar reasons.People expected prices to soar at the auction because of the quick reduction of supply coupled with unchanging or growing energy demand. Continue Reading