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U.S. Coal Plant Delays Closures as Clean Energy Transition Hurdles

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SHEBOYGAN — Travel Wisconsin Sheboygan state brochures advertise the town's beaches on Lake Michigan as the Malibu of the Midwest. But the glossy photo page misses out on the landscape features. Coal plants on the coast will remain open until mid-2025 instead of closing this year as planned.

Alliant Energy's Edgewater coal-fired power plant in Sheboygan has announced a delay or potential delay in its planned closure this summer, citing concerns over energy shortages. is one of at least six power plants in

Main cause: Renewable energy deployments intended to replace these coal-fired power plants have been cut short in recent months due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues. was hit by U.S. Commerce Department import tariffs on solar panels are making it harder for them to keep up with the booming electricity demand, utilities said.

In addition to the delayed closure of the 400 megawatt (MW) Edgewater plant in Sheboygan, Alliant's 1.1 GW Colombian Energy Center in Portage will have approximately 18 months to complete by June 2026. will be closed with a delay of

WEC Energy Group Inc has postponed the closure of the remaining units of its 1,135 MW Oak Creek power station near Milwaukee for up to 18 months from May 2024 until late 2025.

Indiana's NiSource Inc slammed solar power.

In Nebraska, on August 18, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors will vote on whether the 645 MW North Omaha Power Plant will remain operational through 2026. There was a delay of up to 3 years.

Also in New Mexico, PNM Resources Inc delayed the shutdown of its San Juan plant unit by three months until September as drought threatened hydropower supplies and heat boosted electricity demand.

When burned, coal emits more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, than any other fossil fuel. It also emits nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which are precursors to smog that are harmful to the human lungs and heart.

Despite delays, and potential delays, all companies have met their long-term voluntary targets for carbon emissions, with scrubbers and other pollutants producing most of the baseline pollutants emitted. said to have been removed.

Holly Bender, senior director of energy campaigns for the Sierra Club Environment Group, said the delay did not portend a resurgence in coal use. About 360 coal-fired power plants in the United States have closed or are scheduled to close in recent years, while about 170 remain in operation, according to the organization.

Rather, Bender said the delays provide "a warning sign that we are failing to plan for the kind of clean energy growth that is needed."

President Joe Biden's goal of reducing US carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030 and decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 is a It is likely subject to further closures.

Biden's emissions plan, as expected, is expected to give markets certainty that it will cut emissions by about 40% by,アナリストによると、2030 if the Senate passes the Inflation Reduction Act. . Billions of dollars in clean energy tax credits and incentives.

The U.S. coal industry has been hit hard by a surge in cheap natural gas, declining renewable energy prices, and regulations to crack down on direct health problems and pollution that poses a carbon threat. I'm getting hit. Coal generated about 20% of US electricity last year, down from about 50% in 2006.

But further reductions in emissions will not be easy.

"Increasing the accountability of utilities, regulators and planners is imperative to ensure the transformation of the coal-from-power sector," Bender said.

Doesn't help solve the problem

Estimating the health impact of coal-fired plant emissions on people in precise local Difficult to disperse contamination. Pollution from vehicles and industry also has a negative impact on air quality.

Still, like many densely populated industrial areas in the United States, parts of Sheboygan County have complied with revised US ozone standards since his 2018. Is not ... compliance since then, according to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

And coal-fired power plants, even in federally compliant areas, can contribute to health problems, said an air quality scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"It's still affecting the air for people downwind," she said of the delay. "Keeping these facilities open is not going to solve the problem."

Whether the delays portend more to come is an open question. But coal market players see at least a temporary opportunity.

Joe Kraft, chief executive of his partners at Alliance Resources, his third-largest coal producer in the United States, told analysts this month that the plant Keeping it running "will bode well for us," he said.

Strong coal markets in the United States and Europe will drive the Alliance's year-on-year profit margin growth from now through 2024, Craft said.

Ted O'Brien, a Pittsburgh-based fuel marketer who is managing partner and chief commercial officer at Oluma Resources, said the coal plant will continue to run forever. said that, although no one believed it, the delay could at least extend life. Of mine.

"Maybe this will give coal the staying power to sustain every corner of the broader US energy mix," O'Brien said. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Marguerita Choy)