Sierra Club says U.S. coal retirements now top 100,000 MW

The Sierra Club said May 4 that Dynegy‘s May 3 announcement that it will shut three coal-fired units in Illinois marks the announced retirement of more than 100,000 MW of coal-fired power plants in the United States since 2010.

Dynegy said it will shut Units 1 and 3 at the Baldwin Power Station in Baldwin, Illinois, and Unit 2 at the Newton Power Station in Newton, Illinois. If MISO determines the units aren’t needed for reliability, Dynegy expects to shut down operations at Newton Unit 2 in September 2016, Baldwin Unit 1 in October 2016, and Baldwin Unit 3 in March 2017.

Said the club, which has fought for coal retirements at the state and federal levels for years: “Dynegy’s announcement, which retires 1,877 MW of coal capacity, is another example of the quickening speed which the United States is moving away from coal and investing in clean energy. Just this week, it was announced that the nation had more than one million solar installations in operation.

“Yesterday’s coal retirement milestone comes as a result of unrelenting advocacy by the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and over 100 allied organizations to  phase out coal and natural gas use in the electric sector over the the next fifteen years – and replace it with clean energy. Coal retirements thus far have already enabled the United States to lead the industrialized world in cutting carbon pollution, and have put the United States on firm footing to meet its 2020 and new 2025 climate commitments it made in Paris at the end of last year.”

Said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club: “The retirement of Illinois’ Baldwin and Newton coal units are not only a great step forward for public health in the Prairie State, it’s a clear sign that we are winning – coal plant by plant – in the effort to transition our communities away from dirty coal electricity. But we’re not done – we’re mobilizing nationwide because the fight for a fair and just transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is far from done.”

Notable is that the Sierra Club also has a Beyond Gas campaign, and is fighting to shut and halt development of gas-fired power plants, saying renewables and energy storage are better options.

To date, there has been the announced retirement of 101,673 MW of coal-fired electricity, which includes 232 coal plants and 662 coal units across the country, the club said. 

“Dynegy’s decision to phase out units at these Illinois coal-fired power plants is a signal of the profound shift that’s happening right now in America’s energy landscape from coal to clean energy,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, it is essential that we invest in the livelihoods of workers and communities historically dependent on coal, and the Sierra Club is committed to working in solidarity to maximize opportunities for the skilled workforce at the plants impacted by Dynegy’s announcement.”

“Retiring enough coal to displace the pollution from 89 million cars is more than a major campaign milestone; it is an astonishing victory for public health and climate action,” said Antha Williams, Environmental Program Lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has provided $80 million to the Beyond Coal campaign. “In Illinois and across the country, community after community has realized that transitioning to cleaner sources of energy saves consumers money and creates new jobs.”

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s temporary hold earlier this year on the U.S. EPA’s CO2-reducing Clean Power Plan, which applies to existing power plants, the 100,000-MW milestone not only shows that the coal industry will continue to decline despite the court’s pause, but it also highlights the industry’s responsibility to acknowledge and act on the world’s changing energy landscape, the club added.  

As the transition away from coal and toward clean energy continues, the Sierra Club said it is committed to helping protect the livelihoods of workers and communities traditionally reliant on coal. The organization is working to advance these efforts through the Beyond Coal campaign, its Labor Program, and federal policy advocacy – which focus on supporting legislation, like President Obama’s Power+ Plan, which helps transition coal communities to new opportunities.

With the support of more than $120 million in grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies and a wide range of other funding partners, Beyond Coal employs more than 170 staff members who support thousands of activists and more than a hundred allied organizations nationwide.

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.