The Changing Role of Coal in Electrical GeneratioNNuScale Power plants are the ideal solution to replace and make the best use of retiring coal and other fossil fuel plants. They provide a clean and economical option. Nuclear is cleaner than coal providing 100 percent carbon-free energy and is cost competitive, with more long-term price predictability than natural gas.
Coal-fired power plants have been generating electricity in the U.S. for over a century. In 2015, coal plants generated 39 percent of the 3,944 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated in the United States. However, coal’s contribution has steadily eroded; down from 50 percent just a decade earlier.
The pressure on coal generating assets stems from several sources.
Aging infrastructure has made many older and smaller units uneconomical to operate. Nearly 70 percent of coal-fired generating units comprising more than 50 percent of the coal generating capacity are more than 40 years old. At the end of 2015, the coal-fired generating units in the United States totaled 286 gigawatts of capacity. In 2015 alone, 11.3 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity were retired. EIA projects with a total of 30 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity will retire by 2025, 87 percent of which by the end of 2020.