November 5, 2021 Read More →

Southern to close 5,500MW of coal-fired capacity by 2030

EnergyWire ($):

Southern Co. announced yesterday that it will shutter roughly 55 percent of its coal fleet by the end of the decade as the company shifts to a net-zero electricity mix.

The closures include units at the nation’s two largest coal-fired power plants, as well as the previously announced Plant Daniel, one of the last coal generators in Mississippi. The move will reduce the amount of coal on Southern’s system by 80 percent since 2007, company CEO Tom Fanning told Wall Street analysts yesterday.

Atlanta-based Southern — the nation’s third-largest utility — once operated 66 generating units of coal, producing 20,450 megawatts across its Southeastern territory. It now operates 18 units producing 9,799 MW, according to the company. Once these additional units are closed, that figure will fall to roughly 4,300 MW at eight units, Fanning said.

The coal shutdowns stem from federal wastewater regulations for power plant discharges, which can contain high levels of toxic chemicals like mercury, arsenic, nitrogen and selenium. Electric companies across the country were required to tell EPA last month whether they will spend money to keep their coal units running, close them or do enough upgrades to meet the federal standards so they can operate roughly 10 percent of the time.

The move comes as Southern aims to reach corporate goals for net-zero emissions by 2050. It has hit its target to cut emissions in half a decade earlier. Separately, the Biden administration has called on the power sector to decarbonize by 2035.

Georgia Power plans to remove roughly 3,000 MW of coal in the state, including two of the four units at Plant Bowen and one at Plant Scherer, which is the largest coal plant in the country. Once that unit at Plant Scherer closes by 2025, the amount of electricity from coal at that power plant will be cut in half.

Alabama Power’s transition will turn the once coal-heavy electric company into one that runs mostly on natural gas and nuclear power. The utility plans to remove roughly 3,000 MW of coal, including four units at Plant Gaston and one at Plant Barry. A separate unit at Plant Gaston and Barry will convert to run on natural gas.

[Kristi E. Swartz]

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