FirstEnergy to shut three more coal plants this year

Adding to its recent announcement about shutting six other coal plants, FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE) announced Feb. 8 that its Monongahela Power (Mon Power) subsidiary will be retiring three older coal-fired power plants located in West Virginia by Sept. 1.

The decision to close the plants is based on the burden of complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which were issued in December 2011, and other environmental regulations. The plants to be retired are Albright, Willow Island and Rivesville.

The total capacity of these regulated plants is 660 MW, about 3% of FirstEnergy’s total regulated and competitive generation portfolio. These plants lately have served mostly as peaking facilities, generating, on average, less than 1% of the electricity produced by FirstEnergy over the past three years. 

Mon Power recently completed a year-long study of its older, unscrubbed regulated coal units to determine the potential impact of new environmental regulations. It was decided that additional investments to implement MATS and other environmental rules would make these plants even less likely to be dispatched.

This follows FirstEnergy’s Jan. 26 announcement that its competitive generation subsidiaries would retire six other coal-fired power plants located in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland by Sept. 1. All of the recently announced plant retirements are subject to review for reliability impacts, if any, by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that controls the area where they are located, FirstEnergy noted.

The total capacity of the six competitive plants that will be retired is 2,689 MW. Recently, these six plants have served mostly as peaking or intermediate facilities, generating, on average, about 10% of the electricity produced by the company over the past three years. The plants to be retired and their locations are: Bay Shore Units 2-4, Oregon, Ohio; Eastlake, Eastlake, Ohio; Ashtabula, Ashtabula, Ohio; Lake Shore, Cleveland, Ohio; Armstrong, Adrian, Pa.; and R. Paul Smith, Williamsport, Md.

Since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, FirstEnergy and its predecessor companies have invested more than $10bn in environmental protection efforts. Since 1990, FirstEnergy has reduced emissions of NOx by more than 76%, SO2 by more than 86% and mercury by about 56%. When the older coal-fired plants are retired and removed from FirstEnergy’s competitive and regulated generating fleet, nearly 100% of the power provided will come from resources that are non- or low-emitting, including nuclear, hydro, pumped-storage hydro, natural gas and scrubbed coal units. 

FirstEnergy’s 10 electric distribution companies comprise the nation’s largest investor-owned electric system. Its diverse generating fleet features non-emitting nuclear, scrubbed coal, natural gas, and pumped-storage hydro and other renewables, and has a total generating capacity of nearly 23,000 MW.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.