End Of An Era For FPL Coal Power In Florida

Coal power in Florida

The USA’s largest electricity gentailer, Florida Power & Light, has closed down its last coal fired power station in the state.

FPL announced yesterday the Indiantown Cogeneration Plant was closed for good on January 1. FPL purchased the plant back in 2017 with the express intention of shutting it down. Buying the power station turned out to be more cost-effective than if FPL continued with an existing power-purchase contract with the facility that wouldn’t have expired until the end of 2025.

This isn’t the first instance of FPL buying existing coal-fired power plants it had contracts with for the sole purpose of shutting them down, reducing emissions as well as saving money.

As well as ridding itself of coal fired generation, FPL has also turned its back – for the most part – on oil. In 2000, it was the USA’s largest user of oil to generate electricity. Its consumption is now down by 99%.

“By eliminating our use of coal and effectively eliminating our use of oil, our customers now receive energy that is better for our environment, and is reliable and much more affordable,” said FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy.

FPL claims its electricity generation fleet, which includes solar power, wind energy, gas and nuclear plants, is now one of the “cleanest and most efficient in the country”. The company says this has saved nearly $11 billion in fuel costs and eliminated more than 145 million tons of CO2 emissions since 2001, representing a 35% reduction.

FPL serves more than 5.6 million customer accounts supporting more than 11 million residents across Florida, which is around half the state’s population. It currently operates 28 large-scale solar energy facilities and has hundreds of smaller installations. There’s much more solar to come – in 2019, the company announced its “30 by 30” initiative that involves installing 30 million solar panels by 2030.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal consumption in Florida’s electricity sector plummeted from around 29 million tons in 2008 to approximately 9 million tons in 2019. That year, solar energy accounted for almost 4.6 million megawatt hours of electricity generation in Florida, which was around half of the state’s renewable-sourced generation.

So Much For Trump Ending The War On Coal

FPL’s shuttering of Indiantown Cogeneration Plant and coal’s fading fortunes in the USA brought back to mind something (very soon to be ex) US President Donald Trump proclaimed back in 2018.

“.. we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal“.

It’s quite a feat to fit so much inaccuracy into just 9 words, but this is where Donald Trump has really excelled during his presidency.

There have been plenty of coal power station retirements across the nation since then – and they aren’t being replaced with new coal. Even if Trump was just referring to exports, those have taken another hit since 2018.

The EIA states 9.1 gigawatts of electricity generation capacity in the USA is scheduled to retire this year, with 30% of that capacity to be coal. The agency notes 48 GW of coal capacity has been retired in the USA in the past 5 years.

The EIA says developers and power plant owners are planning for 39.7 gigawatts of new electricity generating capacity to start commercial operation this year. Solar power will account for the largest share of new capacity at 39%.

There was no mention of new coal and if there is any, it would be part of the “Other” category – forecast to be just 200MW in total.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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