Enlarge / US President Donald Trump speaks during a political rally at Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia on August 21, 2018. (credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
In 2018, 14.3 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity was retired, up from 7 GW retired in 2017. That constitutes the second-biggest year for coal-fired capacity retirement since 2015, according to new research from S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2015, 14.7 GW of coal-fired capacity was retired.
The Trump Administration campaigned on its ability to save coal by cutting back Obama-era regulations. But in 2017, a Department of Energy-commissioned report gave the Administration some bad news: environmental regulations aren’t what’s killing coal—economics are. According to a recent report from market research firm Lazard on the leveled cost of energy, building new renewable energy is currently cheaper than paying marginal costs for many coal plants. And innovations in fracking have dropped the cost of US natural gas far below that of coal.
As the US coal fleet ages, utilities and energy companies are incentivized to replace old coal plants with natural gas plants and renewable energy.