One of the last of the New England coal plants to shut in 2017

Reports on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 said that the new owner of the coal-fired Brayton Point plant in Massachusetts has been unable to clear the plant’s capacity on the ISO New England system, so the plant will have to shut in May 2017.

The plant was sold a few months ago by Dominion Resources (NYSE: D) to Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm, in a deal that also involved coal- and gas-fired assets in Illinois.

The Brayton Point plant’s new owners pointed to a number of reasons for the planned shutdown, including low electricity prices from a surplus of natural gas in the region and the need to invest “significant capital to meet environmental regulations and to operate and maintain an aging plant,” said one Associated Press report.

“We understand the impacts that this decision to retire Brayton Point Station will have on the employees of Brayton Point, local community and other stakeholders,” Curt Morgan, CEO and President of Brayton Point Energy LLC, said in a written statement on Oct. 7. Morgan said the company will work to ease those impacts.

Dominion had spent about $1.1bn to modernize the Brayton Point station, which also burns oil and natural gas. This is an approximately 1,544 MW facility consisting of three coal-fired units, one gas/oil-fired steam unit and four small diesel-fired units located in Somerset, Mass.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows the power plant taking coal earlier this year from the Cerrejon mine in Colombia and also out of the Thacker prep plant in southern West Virginia of Central Appalachia Mining, which is a unit of Rhino Resource Partners LP (NYSE: RNO). Much of the Cerrejon coal was sold through Virginia Power Energy Marketing, a Dominion Resources unit.

Sierra Club applauds this latest coal casualty

The Sierra Club said in an Oct. 8 statement that the announcement that the Brayton Point plant would retire by 2017 means that its Beyond Coal campaign officially marked 150 coal plants that have announced plans to retire since 2010.

“The closure of the Brayton Point Power Station is a powerful example of how local action can have a global impact,” said Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Over the last three years, action by individual communities – in partnership with the Sierra Club and Bloomberg Philanthropies – has led to the closure of 150 coal plants, one at a time. We will continue to support those who are on the ground working to close the nation’s dirty coal plants, which kill 13,000 Americans every year and threaten the future of our planet.”

“New England is leading the nation in the move away from dirty coal and toward innovative renewable energy solutions like our growing offshore wind industry,” said James McCaffery, New England Beyond Coal campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “This is a testament to the great work of local residents who have been fighting to clean up the air in the region for more than a decade.”

The Sierra Club said clean energy is the future. Today, the United States has more than 60,000 MW of installed wind capacity, it noted. The state of Texas produces so much wind energy, that if Texas were a country, it would be the world’s sixth ranking wind energy producer. Meanwhile, states across the country are already being powered by renewable energy. In 2012, Iowa and South Dakota received more than 20% of their energy from wind, and nine states produced more than 10% of their electricity from wind energy. 

What’s more, this year the U.S. joined three other countries with more than 10,000 MW of installed solar capacity. Solar is the fastest growing energy option in the U.S., and in states like New Jersey, North Carolina, California and Illinois, solar power is both creating local jobs and providing clean, affordable electricity, the club said.

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.