US Coal and Gas Plants Are Ready to Retire

New research shows that most fossil fuel plants will have reached the end of their expected lives by 2035, making it easier to envision Joe Biden’s climate plan.

From Inside Climate News, Dec. 10, 2020:

What if President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to get to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 turns out to involve not radical disruption but a smooth transition? 

A new paper in the journal Science shows that most of the country’s existing coal, natural gas and oil power plants would be past the end of their expected lives by 2035, leaving only a small share that would need to close early under the Biden policy.

Considering this, implementing the Biden plan “is probably easier than people expected,” said the author, Emily Grubert, an environmental engineering professor at Georgia Tech.

By showing when the country’s fossil fuel power plants are on track to go offline, the report helps to signal to state and local governments when to prepare to deal with job losses. Most of those job losses would happen regardless of climate policy.

“The overall takeaway is that we do have time to plan for this,” Grubert said.

She looked at every one of the 10,435 generating units at power plants that were operating in 2018 and estimated when each would close, based on the typical age of shutdown for other units that use the same technologies. Most large fossil fuel plants have multiple generating units. The plant reaches the end of its life when the last generating unit stops operating.

Grubert’s research is remarkable for its level of detail, allowing her to draw conclusions about fossil fuel power plants across the country in ways that have never been done in quite this way.

Some plants will close sooner than their projected retirement dates, and some will close later, but the report serves as a kind of actuarial table to get an idea of how long plants are expected to live.

Read more here.