SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Ripe for Retirement: Costliest Coal Plants


The Union of Concerned Scientists’ national report examines and evaluates the economic viability of our nation’s existing coal-fired electricity generating units and recommends the closure and retirement of uneconomically viable coal-fired generation units. In the Southeast, 121 units at 61 plants are deemed uneconomical for continued operation in the UCS estimates.

Many of the coal plants identified as ripe for retirement are older, less efficient and underutilized plants with an average age of 45 years – 15 years past the 30 year expected life span of a coal plant. Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy are the top three power companies who own the most generators identified as ripe for retirement. ripe_for_retirement_cover.jpg

The Southeast also dominates the list of states with the most “ripe for retirement” generating units located within their boundaries – filling out the top four states on the list – Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. The report found Georgia had 22 units at 7 plants, Alabama had 24 units at 7 plants, Tennessee had 22 units at 3 plants and Florida had 11 units at 7 plants.

In evaluating existing coal plants, the report compares the cost of electricity generated from individual coal-fired electricity generating units with the cost of electricity generated from cleaner forms of energy such as wind power and natural gas. If the coal-fired generator, even after installing necessary pollution controls,would be more expensive to operate than alternative forms of energy then the generator is deemed ripe for retirement.

In the report, those units deemed “ripe for retirement” are separated into “high estimate” and “low estimate” generation units. High Estimate units are those whose operation is deemed uneconomic when compared to the cost of operation of an existing natural gas plant. The Low Estimate units are those that are uneconomic compared to operation of a new natural gas plant. Nationally, the report found 353 ripe for retirement generating units in its high estimate and 153 ripe for retirement generating units in its low estimate.

Check out our blog on the report and what it means for the Southeast.
Click here for the full report and to see which coal plants don’t make the financial cut.

Also, click below for your state specific press releases:
Georgia Press Release: New Study Shows GA Coal Units Ripe for Retirement
Florida Press Release : New Study Shows FL Coal Units Ripe for Retirement
Alabama Press Release: New Study Shows AL Coal Units Ripe for Retirement