The economic shutdown related to the Coronavirus pandemic has caused a decline in energy demand throughout the US. As a result of the lower demand, combined with low natural gas prices and mild weather, coal-fired generation is being called on less-frequently, keeping retirement of 9,038 MW-worth of that generation on track for 2020. According to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (“IEEFA”), renewable generation has produced more than coal-fired generation for 40 straight days, beginning on March 25th. In 2019, this only occurred 38 times all year.
Coal-generation’s high cost and strict environmental requirements make it the last choice for generators, who are reassessing capital spending forecasts and future plans as a result of the pandemic, future plans that include coal retirements. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, most utilities set to retire coal plants said they are not yet seeing a reason to slow those plans.
13,863 MW of coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019.