Atlanta-based Southern Co., the US’s third-largest utility, will terminate around 55% of its coal fleet by 2030. Southern Co. is working toward achieving net zero by 2050.

Coal shutdowns in Georgia and Alabama

Units at the US’s two largest coal-fired plants will be closed. That means around 3,000 MW of coal will be removed in Georgia.

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co., plans to shut down two out of four units at the 3,450 MW Plant Bowen in Euharlee, Georgia.

It will also close one unit at the 3,520-megawatt Robert W. Scherer Power Plant in Juliette, Georgia, which is the largest coal plant in the US. Shutting that single unit at Scherer by 2025 will slash the electricity generated by coal at that power plant in half.

E&E News notes that Southern “once operated 66 generating units of coal, producing 20,450 megawatts [MW] across its southeastern territory. It now operates 18 units producing 9,799 MW, according to the company. Once these additional units are closed, that figure will fall to roughly 4,300 MW at eight units, [Southern CEO Tom] Fanning said.”

The coal shutdowns stem from federal wastewater regulations for power plant discharges, which can contain high levels of toxic chemicals like mercury, arsenic, nitrogen, and selenium.

Electric companies across the country were required to tell EPA last month whether they will spend money to keep their coal units running, close them or do enough upgrades to meet the federal standards so they can operate roughly 10% of the time.

Alabama Power, which is also a subsidiary of Southern, plans to remove roughly 3,000 MW of coal, including four units at Plant Gaston near Wilsonville, Alabama, and one at Plant Barry in Bucks, Alabama. Alabama Power plans to transition to natural gas and nuclear.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming…

The Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming points out that Scherer sources all of its coal from Wyoming. In 2020, around 10% of three Wyoming mines’ combined coal production went to Scherer.

Shannon Anderson, staff attorney and organizer at the Powder River Basin Resource Council, “works to address the impacts of coal mining and power plants and uranium mining on people and places in Wyoming,” according to her bio. Anderson said to the Star Tribune:

We can’t stop this from happening. And so the next step for us is, what do we do about it?

We have time to start planning for our future, and figure out how to attract new industry and new business. But the window of planning is shrinking.

Here’s an idea, Wyoming: renewables. It’s got all its eggs in a fossil-fuel basket, and it had better adapt fast. As the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) writes:

Wind power in Wyoming has more than doubled since 2009 and accounted for 12% of the state’s electricity net generation in 2020. The state installed the third-largest amount of wind power generating capacity in 2020, after Texas and Iowa.

Read more: Wyoming is the No. 1 US coal producer, but its largest utility is ditching the fossil fuel

Photo: By Antennas – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2042247


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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.