U.S. Government Projections for Mississippi Power, Southern Company

In 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that coal would drop to 44% of America’s electrical generation by 2035. Actual generation dropped to that level in 2011.

This week, the agency again adjusted its long-term figures for coal in the U.S., projecting that generation will fall to 39% by 2035. But groups on the front lines of fighting coal plants say those figures are still far too conservative.

Due to a combination of cheap natural gas, higher coal prices, increasingly cost-competitive renewable energy, and an aggressive community of activists working to prevent the build of new coal plants, the coal sector is facing an unprecedented decline in generation. At least, that’s what leaders of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign are saying.

“The pipeline has essentially dried up,” said Bruce Nilles, the senior director of the Beyond Coal campaign, to Climate Progress. “Our view is that the rush is almost over.”

Here are some of the top indicators for coal’s future that Sierra Club pointed to after this week’s release of the EIA’s figures:

  • At least 33,000 megawatts worth of existing coal-fired power plants are expected to retire in the coming decades, not including any retirements due to the recently-finalized mercury and air toxics standard from the Environmental Protection Agency. For reference, an average-sized coal-burning power plant is approximately 500 megawatts.
  • The biggest difference from last year’s EIA projection is that more coal retirements will be driven by rising coal prices, state renewable energy standards and EPA clean air standards. All these signs point to reduced market share for coal and expanded market share for clean energy.
  • No new coal plants are predicted to be constructed in the time period, beyond those few that are already under construction.
  • The share of electricity production from clean energy sources (including hydropower and biomass) should increase from 10 to 16 percent during the time period.
  • Overall electricity demand growth is expected to remain below one percent annually.

Certainly, the outlook for coal isn’t good. But there’s a common misconception that coal is completely dead.

A look at the pipeline for projects in the top chart shows that there are still a fair amount of projects underway. EIA projects the portfolio of plants in various stages of development will actually increase coal generation after 2015.

But the EIA reference case assumes no change to existing policy — meaning it doesn’t factor in a price on carbon or any upcoming Environmental Protection Agency standards for power plant emissions. The combination of those two policies could dramatically change the prospects for coal.

“I’d say that coal is on the ropes,” says Nilles. “Many of the plants you see in development are rural electric cooperatives and municipal projects — no merchant projects because of sticker shock. Our view is that the rush is basically over.”

There’s one other factor being ignored by current conservative analysis: the dramatic changes in cost of renewable energy versus the increase in cost for constructing coal plants. For example, In Mississippi, the $2.4 billion, 500-MW Kemper County coal plant is expected to raise rates by more than 45% — increasing the average monthly bill by roughly $60.

Compare that to the stunning drop in the price and installed cost of solar technologies. According to some estimates, the changing economics for coal plants — assuming a new one actually gets built — makes the resource less competitive than solar photovoltaics in many areas of the country over the next few years.  HERE

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About Mississippi Coal
Welcome! It is an honor to have a moment of your day. We are in favor of all forms of energy. We care about the future of this great Nation and seek to expose the corruption behind the Kemper County CO2 capturing experimental Lignite coal Demonstration unit. Our Chief complaint is that the rate payers pay for it in their electric bills. The CO2 capturing does not produce electricity so therefore serves no purpose for the ratepayers. It is a money scam for Mississippi power and Southern Company. Mississippi is first in following the (United Nation's Agenda 21) Kyoto Protocols for the regulation of carbon dioxide, a gas we breathe out of our lungs, by forcing the people to pay for it through energy bills and taxes. Through the process of investigating the Kemper County Coal Plant issue, we feel criminal acts have been committed and that soon FCC violations will be added to the offenses. People are being lied to, deceived, or misled and therefore are fully cooperating with this Lignite experiment. "This blog or any content may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of political pathways, Constitutional infringements, democracy, science, and other issues. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is compiled and distributed without profit. This blog does not always agree with certain personal views or agendas of the published authors, but we will overlook such views many times in order to present facts, conclusions, and connections for knowledge or clarification. We hope you gain from this critical subject matter of the article/op-ed."

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