More than 4,000MW of coal power slated for retirement in Texas. But why?

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Enlarge / Emissions rise from smokestacks at Pacificorp’s 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on October 9, 2017 outside Huntington, Utah. (credit: George Frey/Getty Images)

Late last week, power company Vistra Energy announced that it would close two of its Texas coal plants by early 2018. In a press release, the company blamed “Sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market, and low natural gas prices, along with other factors.”

Just the week before, Vistra subsidiary Luminant had announced another Texas plant closure, according to Reuters. The three Texas coal plants reflect more than 4GW of capacity. The plants are only the latest in a string of announced retirements from power companies that find their coal units offline more and more often due to low electricity prices.

But these closures came at a surprising time: the Trump administration has been pushing some of the most aggressive policies aimed at helping out coal plants that we’ve seen yet. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved to roll back the Clean Power Plan just last week, and, in late September, the Department of Energy proposed a rule that would increase compensation for facilities that can store 90 days of fuel onsite (i.e., coal and nuclear energy). Industry watchers expected the proposed lifelines would forestall exits from coal generation.

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