ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In a win for environmentalists who oppose burning fossil fuels, so many coal plants in the Northeast have switched fuels or been decommissioned that consumption levels and electricity generated from coal have decreased to the bare minimum.
At the 2007 peak of coal-fired electricity in the U.S., coal generated 15% of electrical power in New England and New York. The Energy Information Administration expects coal-fired electricity to be under 1% once numbers are finalized for December 2019.
According to the Energy Information Administration, further upcoming closures will reduce consumption even more.
In Somerset, New York, the last coal-fired plant running in the state is about to close. In November, Kintigh Generating Station announced it would retire as early as March. The closing date depends on whether, or how long, the plant must keep running to stabilize the regional energy grid. Closing Kintigh would fulfill Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s pledge to phase out coal by 2020.
Without the Somerset plant, New York cannot generate coal-fired electricity. Other coal plants in the state have already been retired or switched to other fuels. The Cayuga power plant in Lansing started shutting down late last year, and the RED Rochester facility converted its coal-fired operations to natural gas in 2018.
New England coal plants have also decreased. The Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, the last in the state, closed in 2017. Only five coal plants remain elsewhere in New England:
- Bridgeport Harbor Station: The last coal plant in Connecticut be closed by July 2021 and replaced by a natural gas facility.
- Merrimack Station: The Bowe, New Hampshire plant rarely runs today, because natural gas and solar, wind, and hydropower are cheaper.
- Schiller Station: Located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the largest in the state. It is also converting to renewable fuel sources, like wood chips.
- Rumford Power: A cogeneration plant in Rumford, Maine that focuses on natural gas.
- Westbrook Power Center: An industrial plant in Westbrook, Maine that avoids mentioning coal in any promotional material.
Environmental regulations and competitive renewable power sources have left most coal-fired plants to run only in the winter. Along with closures, these low operating rates reduced coal use in the region from almost 3 million tons in 2015 to under 500,000 tons in 2019.