Road to Decarbonization: U.S. Coal Plant Closures
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Road to Decarbonization: U.S. Coal Plant Closures

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The following content is sponsored by the National Public Utilities Council

Road to Decarbonization: U.S. Coal Plant Closures

As the push to decarbonize starts to kick into gear in the U.S., how do coal plant closures factor into the equation?

With a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the U.S. is examining all aspects of its economy to see where action is needed. In the automotive industry, for example, the Biden administration is aiming for half of new vehicles to be electric by 2030, following in the footsteps of automakers that have made similar commitments.

But in the power sector that supplies electricity for much of the country, fossil fuels continue to be large emission sources. Coal, which accounted for just 19% of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2020, created 54% of the power sector’s emissions.

That’s leading to U.S. utilities feeling the pressure to retire coal plants and look for alternatives. This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council visualizes the coal plant closures that have been announced, and how much power will be affected as a result.

Where Are U.S. Coal Plant Closures Happening?

Accurately tracking coal plant closures currently means turning to non-profits and parsing through company reports. To assemble this list, we leveraged the Global Energy Monitor and Carbon Brief and cross-referenced against company sustainability reports and news releases.

The result? 80 coal plants with a total capacity of 98.3 GW publicly scheduled for full retirement over the next three decades.

PlantStateRetirement DateCapacity (MW)
BurlingtonIA2021212
Dolet HillsLA2021721
AES HawaiiHI2022204
Coal CreekND20221,210
E.D. EdwardsIL2022645
EdgewaterWI2022414
Fayette* (announced not confirmed)TX20221,690
HeskettND2022115
JoppaIL20221,100
MeramecMO2022924
San JuanNM2022924
St. ClairMI20221,210
Taconite HarborMN2022168
Trenton ChannelMI2022536
A.B. BrownIN2023530
Big BendFL20231,824
Bull RunTN2023950
ChesterfieldVA20231,053
KarnMI2023516
LawrenceKS2023517
Martin DrakeCO2023207
MeromIN20231,080
North OmahaNE2023354
North ValmyNV2023567
SchahferIN20231,944
ColumbiaWI20241,112
G.G. AllenNC20241,155
South Oak CreekWI20241,240
BaldwinIL20251,260
Brunner IslandPA20251,558
CentraliaWA20251,460
ChollaAZ2025840
CloverVA2025848
Herbert WagnerMD2025495
IntermountainUT20251,640
NauhgtonWY2025448
Prairie CreekIA202550
NortheasternOK2026473
AES Puerto RicoPR2027510
ColstripMT20272,272
KincaidIL20271,319
Miami FortOH20271,115
MorgantownMD20271,252
NewtonIL20271,235
Victor J. DanielMS20271,097
WinyahSC20271,260
ZimmerOH20271,426
Allen S. KingMN2028598
CayugaIN20281,062
CraigCO20281,427
HaydenCO2028466
Michigan CityIN2028540
PawneeCO2028552
RockportIN20282,600
SiouxMO20281,099
White BluffAR20281,800
Belle RiverMI20301,396
BonanzaUT2030500
IndependenceAR20301,800
Ray NixonCO2030207
Sherburne CountyMN20302,469
Four CornersNM20311,636
CumberlandTN20352,600
GallatinTN20351,255
KingstonTN20351,700
MarshallNC20351,996
ShawneeTN20351,750
Jim BridgerWY20372,441
GibsonIN20383,340
Belews CreekNC20392,160
IatanMO20391,725
JeffreyKS20392,160
La CygneKS20391,599
Rush IslandMO20391,242
ComancheCO20401,636
J. H. CampbellMI20401,540
MonroeMI20403,280
LadabieMO20422,389
PetersburgIN20422,147
James E. RogersNC20491,481

Noticeably, most of the coal plant closures are targeted in the Midwest (which uses the most coal for power). And most of the retirements are coming early, with the 2020s seeing more than half of announced closures and retired capacity (53.6 GW).

But the largest coal plants with announced retirement dates are currently scheduled for the 2030s and 2040s. That includes Duke Energy’s Gibson power plant in Indiana, the fifth largest coal plant in the U.S. and the largest with a retirement date.

What’s Next for U.S. Decarbonization?

Though it seems like the U.S. has a lot of coal plant closures announced, there’s a lot left to go.

The 98.3 GW of tracked coal plant closures is just 45% of U.S. coal electricity production in 2020. Though many utilities have talked about eventually assessing and planning retirements for some of the remaining 55%, no concrete plans have been announced yet.

“In our industry, deciding to exit coal-fired power is not taken lightly,” said Omaya Ahmad, Sustainability Policy Consultant at Arizona Public Service. “Our coal plants are often the oldest in our fleet and are largely the reason our service territories have grown and flourished into what they are today. However, the pressures presented by climate change and the economic demands tied to coal have required a commitment to transition to clean energy.”

Coal Plant Closures Are Part of a Larger Equation

But as Ahmad explains, turning off coal plants is not such a quick-and-easy fix.

“Such a transition will be a lofty undertaking and will not come without its own challenges,” said Ahmad. “Recognizing the regional transition landscape and timeline depicted on a map like this one will help utilities adequately prepare for and support their coal communities as we all take steps to reach a clean energy economy.”

And coal plants are just one part of the decarbonization equation. Some utilities are opting to transform coal power plants into natural gas plants, which are more cost-efficient and emit less than coal. Even though many utilities and consumers are turning away from carbon emitting fuel sources entirely, there are more than 200 new natural gas plants planned in the U.S.

But the big question is how the generated electricity from coal will be replaced. Communities that rely on coal for power (and economic strength) will have to turn to natural gas or work on renewables capacity, while others have already started the transition.

National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.

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Navigating Market Volatility: Why ETFs Are Critical Tools

Historically, the trading volume of ETFs has spiked during market volatility. We explore why ETFs are preferred by institutional investors.

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ETFs During Market Volatility

Download the ETF Snapshot for free.

Why ETFs Are Critical Tools During Market Volatility

Investors experienced record-breaking volatility in 2020. During COVID-19 market turbulence, the CBOE Volatility index surpassed the previous peak seen in 2008.

In this infographic from iShares, we explore how ETFs rose in popularity during this time—and the characteristics that make them particularly useful during market volatility.

The Methodology

To assess how institutional investors navigated this volatility, Institutional Investor published a report in 2021 based on a survey of 766 decision makers. Respondents were from various types of organizations, firm sizes, and regions.

For instance, here is how responses broke down by location:

  • 21% Asia Pacific
  • 36% North America
  • 29% Europe, Middle East and Africa
  • 14% Latin America

Here’s what the survey found.

Rebalancing During Market Volatility

In total, 90% of institutional investors said they rebalanced their portfolios between the first and third quarter of 2020. How did they do it?

Among all financial tools, ETFs were the most popular vehicle for rebalancing. For instance, ETFs were used by 70% of investors globally, compared to the 51% who used mutual funds or derivatives.

The popularity of ETFs was evident in market activity. From January to March 2020, ETFs as a proportion of total equity trading volume increased.

 January 2020February 2020March 2020
VIX142058
ETF trading volume$95B$136B$240B
ETF as % of equity volume26%27%36%

Based on an average of daily values. Reflects all listed U.S. ETFs across all asset classes.

This trend is true historically as well, as ETF trading volume has typically spiked during periods of volatility.

Want more institutional insights into ETFs?

Global Forecast 2022

Download The ETF Snapshot for free.

The Attributes Driving ETF Usage

Why are ETFs preferred by institutional investors? They offer three key characteristics:

  1. Liquidity: ETFs make it much simpler to buy and sell large portfolios instantly, instead of trading individual securities.
  2. Transparency: Among multi-asset managers, transparency of holdings is the top reason for using ETFs. A clear holdings breakdown helps these managers achieve exposures to particular asset classes, sectors, and styles.
  3. Efficiency: ETFs can be traded quickly. They typically also have lower transaction costs relative to the underlying basket of securities.

Based on these key benefits, ETFs were an invaluable tool during extreme market volatility.

Growing Momentum

ETFs are also poised to help institutional investors navigate the market going forward. Globally, 65% of institutional investors plan to increase their use of ETFs in the future.

In fact, this is already coming to fruition. As of September 2021, the average daily trading volume of ETFs was up more than 5% compared to 2020.

Evidently, ETFs play a critical part in helping institutional investors achieve their goals.

Download the ETF snapshot for free.

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Plant-based Alternatives: 5 Ways They Benefit the Planet

Conventional meat production is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s CO2 gases. Here we visualize the benefits of plant-based alternatives.

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Visualizing the benefits of plant-based alternatives.

Plant-based Alternatives: 5 Ways They Benefit the Planet

Over the past decade, people have become increasingly interested in plant-based diets. In fact, there has been a 600% increase in people turning vegan in the U.S. since 2014.

Because of this, the plant-based foods market could make up roughly 7.7% of the global protein market by 2030, with a value of over $162 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2020.

Although initially promoted for their gambit of health benefits, recent studies have shown that switching to a plant-based diet has a list of environmental benefits too.

The following infographic by Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) (“GOAT”) explores the environmental impacts of conventional meat production and how plant-based alternatives can lessen this impact and be a viable dietary solution for the future.

Environmental Benefits of Plant-based Alternatives

Increased population growth has caused meat production to increase exponentially. The livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to urgent environmental problems. Conventional meat production is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Water, land, and ocean conservation have become a major concern for livestock breeding and meat production. It also causes a loss of soil nutrients, leaving land unusable in the future.

Here are five ways in which the production of plant-based alternatives benefit the environment:

  1. Climate Change: The production of plant-based meats causes very low greenhouse gas emissions and can in fact reduce emissions caused by conventional meat production by 70%.
  2. Land Conservation: Switching to a plant-based diet could also reduce global agricultural land use from 4 to 1 billion hectares.
  3. Water Conservation: A plant-based diet can reduce water consumption by up to 50%, saving 14 trillion gallons of water annually.
  4. Cleaner Water: Creating plant-based alternatives does not require excessive spraying of chemicals and pesticides, reducing aquatic nutrient pollution.
  5. Ocean Conservation: Consumption of plant-based imitation fish can stop the practice of overfishing that has caused oceanic dead zones across the world.

Plant-based alternatives offer a solution to these problems. They produce minimal greenhouse gases and require a fraction of the cropland and water needed for conventional meat production.

Health Benefits of Consuming Plant-based Alternatives

Plant-based diets are considered to be naturally nutritious and healthy. For years, registered dietitians and food scientists have touted the perks of eating plants and cutting back on meat.

Here are some amazing benefits of choosing a plant-based diet:

Lower Your Blood Pressure

Several studies have shown that sticking with a plant-based diet can reduce blood pressure, reducing your risk of further health complications. A recent study also found that vegetarians had a 34% lower risk of developing hypertension than those who consume meat.

Prevent Type-2 Diabetes

Our diet and diseases like type 2 diabetes have had a long-standing link. Plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with a substantially lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes by over 30%.

Provide Healthy Body BMI

Studies have shown that the mean BMI for vegans was 23.6, while for nonvegetarians, it was 28.8, which qualifies as overweight. The various fibers and antioxidants in plant-based foods reduce fatty lipids in the body and promote a healthy BMI.

Decrease Your Risk of Cancer

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR ), the best way to source cancer-protective nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, is to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and some animal foods.

Improve Brain Capacity

There is veritable proof that a plant-based diet may improve the cognitive functions of your body. In some rare cases, it is linked to enhancing impairments in Alzheimer’s patients and reducing the risk of dementia.

Most Popular Plant-based Alternatives

There are a variety of plant-based alternatives that are available for consumption in the market today. Meat and milk alternatives are the most popular types of current plant-based alternatives available. Many popular fast-food chains have now adopted using plant-based meats in their menus.

Similarly, in order to combat the extreme exploitation of fisheries worldwide, efforts are being made to create plant-based seafood alternatives for consumption.

Through brands like Sophie’s Kitchen, Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) gives people the opportunity to invest in companies that offer healthy and environmentally conscious plant-based alternatives for consumption.

Go to billygoatbrands.com to learn more about investing in a plant-based future today.

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