Public Power Magazine

Decommissioning Coal Plants

From the July-August 2017 issue (Vol. 75, No. 4) of Public Power

Originally published July 1, 2017

By Jessica Porter
Contributing Writer
July 1, 2017

Decommissioning a coal plant is not an easy call. To make the decision, utilities’ governing boards determine the composition of their generation resource portfolios, including the development and retirement of specific generation units and how their generation fleets are operated and dispatched to meet the requirements of their customers, said Carolyn Slaughter, the American Public Power Association’s director of environmental policy.

As coal plants age and become less economically or environmentally viable, or as the population around the plants changes, the best option may be to decommission.

“The decision to decommission a plant is multifaceted; it depends on economics and whether there is community outcry to get rid of the plant,” Slaughter said. Many utilities had a small customer base for years and are now seeing an increase in customers as people migrate back to cities. Then utilities have to reconsider where their generation facilities are and evaluate whether they should take a plant down.”

Once the decision to decommission a plant is made, it can take 10 years to complete the process, depending on how the site will be reused. While some utilities decommission coal plants to switch to next-generation energy sources such as natural gas, Slaughter believes coal will continue to be a part of utilities’ power production.

“Coal will still be part of the generation mix, but coal plants that remain operating will be larger units, fully equipped with state-of-the-art environmental controls,” Slaughter said.

The Association is working on a white paper to help utilities that want to decommission their coal plants.


Be the first to rate this item!

Please Sign in to rate this.


  Sign in to add a comment

Digital Edition [PDF]


Delia Patterson, Acting Senior Vice President, Avocacy & Communications and General Counsel
Meena Dayak, Vice President, Integrated Media & Communications
Paul Ciampoli, News Director
Susan Partain, Senior Editor & Content Strategist
Jeannine Anderson, News Editor
Laura D’Alessandro, Editorial Consultant
Robert Thomas, Art Director
Sharon Winfield, Lead Designer, Digital & Print
Sam Gonzales, Director, Digital & Social Media
David Blaylock, Senior Manager, Integrated Media & Communications
Tobias Sellier, Director, Media Relations & Communications
Maria Valatkaite, Integrated Media & Communications Coordinator




Advertising for American Public Power Association publications is managed by Naylor, LLC.

Public Power (ISSN 0033-3654) is published six times a year by the American Public Power Association, 2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Arlington, VA 22202-4804. ©Copyright, 2017, American Public Power Association. Opinions expressed in articles are not necessarily policies of the association. For permission to reprint articles, contact Periodical postage paid in Arlington, VA, and additional mailing offices.