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EIA reports that nuclear power on track to account for largest share of 2021 capacity retirements

January 12, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
January 12, 2021

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) on Jan. 12 said that 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity are scheduled to retire in 2021 and that nuclear generating capacity will account for the largest share of total capacity retirements (56%), followed by coal (30%).

EIA reported the figures in its most recent inventory of electric generators.

At 5.1 GW, nuclear capacity retirements represent half of all total expected retirements in 2021 and 5% of the current operating U.S. nuclear generating capacity.

EIA noted that Exelon Corp. is scheduled to retire two of its Illinois nuclear plants, Dresden and Byron. Each of these plants has two reactors, and their total combined capacity is 4.1 GW. The Unit 3 (1.0 GW) reactor at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York state is scheduled to retire in April.

If all five reactors close as scheduled, 2021 will set a record for the most annual nuclear capacity retirements ever, EIA said.

The decrease of U.S. nuclear power generating capacity is a result of historically low natural gas prices, limited growth in electricity demand, and increasing competition from renewable energy, EIA said.

Meanwhile, after significant retirements of coal-fired electric generating capacity over the past five years, totaling 48 GW, coal retirements will slow in 2021, according to EIA.

It said that 2.7 GW of coal-fired capacity is scheduled to retire, which accounts for 1% of the U.S. coal fleet.

EIA said that these retirements will come primarily from older units, noting that the capacity-weighted average age of retiring coal units is more than 51 years old.

Nearly two-thirds of the capacity retirements are located in just four states: Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

EIA said that the largest coal retirement in 2021 will be at Chalk Point in Maryland, where both of its coal-fired units — 670 megawatts combined — are expected to retire.

With respect to other energy sources, EIA said that more than 800 MW of petroleum-fired capacity and 253 MW of natural gas-fired capacity are scheduled to retire in 2021.

Almost all of the retiring petroleum capacity will be from the 786 MW unit at Possum Point in Virginia, while the largest natural gas retirement will be McKee Run (103 MW) in Delaware.

After operating for 34 years, a 143 MW biomass waste-to-energy plant in Southport, North Carolina, will retire in March, EIA said.