All over the country, aging coal-fired power plants are retiring, giving us important opportunities to move closer and closer to a clean energy future. Between 2009 and 2012, more than 18 GW of these impractical, uneconomical coal plants were retired. That figure more than doubled to 41 GW between 2013 and 2016 and the trend is expected to continue. As the costs of renewable energy projects continue to fall, energy demand declines, and environmental standards take effect, the case favoring energy efficiency and clean energy as the most cost-effective ways to replace retiring coal generation is clear and undeniable. This issue brief describes this opportunity with a particular focus on the country’s three most fossil-heavy regions: the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast.
As some of the largest electric utilities in the country reaffirm their plans to honor commitments to move away from coal in coming years for long-term economic and environmental reasons, it is more important than ever to capitalize on clean energy opportunities. The urgent need to cut carbon pollution to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will require continuous reductions in fossil use as well as smart planning to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy as we make the transition to a low-carbon future.