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Natural gas and renewables lead US power generation capacity additions, coal leads retirements

New York — The US has installed almost twice as much natural gas-fired power generation capacity as wind and solar power in 2018, and coal-fired capacity leads the list of proposed retirements by June 2021, according to federal infrastructure updates issued Thursday.

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The country added four gas-fired power plants totaling 2,667 MW of installed capacity and three solar projects totaling 23 MW of capacity in April, according to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Energy Infrastructure Update for that month.

Five gas-fired power plants came online in May totaling 2,087 MW of capacity, six solar projects totaling 312 MW of capacity were added and one 50-MW biomass plant came online in Hawaii.

Gas has accounted for 62% of the cumulative power generation capacity added through May, according to the updates, with 6,646 MW coming on line. Incremental wind-powered capacity nudged out solar for the second most capacity added, with 1,956 MW of wind entering the power system and 1,921 MW of solar added.

The largest gas plant to come online in April and May is Old Dominion Electric Coop's 1,000-MW Wildcat Point Generation Facility in Cecil County, Maryland. The largest solar project added to the system is Vistra Energy's 180-MW solar powered Luminant Castle Gap Project in Upton County, Texas. The power is sold to Luminant under a long-term contract, FERC said.

COAL LEADS LIST OF PROPOSED RETIREMENTS

Coal plants have been shutting at a rapid clip, with 46.5 GW having retired between 2013 and 2018, which does not include permanent conversions to gas, which might account for an additional 10 GW, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

The trend looks set to continue, according to the data provided by FERC. By June 2021, 16,810 MW of installed coal capacity is scheduled to retire, followed by 14,589 MW of gas-fired capacity. But while 85,686 MW of gas-fired capacity is expected to come online, only two new coal-fired units totaling 912 MW of capacity are proposed. On a unit basis, 342 new gas units are proposed versus 134 proposed gas-fired unit retirements. It's a different story for coal where 67 units are expected to retire by June 2021 with only the two new units expected.

After coal and gas, nuclear power generating capacity represents the third-largest tranche of generation capacity expected to leave the power grid, with 5,607 MW of proposed retirements.

Wind power leads the list of scheduled incremental power generation capacity at 91,049 MW, while solar power projects are expected to add 52,218 MW.

In total, 252,126 MW of installed power generation capacity is expected to be added by mid-2021 and 38,152 MW of capacity is expected to retire. Wind power accounts for 36% of the new capacity, gas accounts for 34% and solar power makes up 21%.

PUMPED STORAGE LEADS HYDROPOWER ADDITIONS

Duke Energy Carolinas filed an application in April to increase the capacity of its Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project from 1,065 MW to 1,400 MW, FERC said. The project is located on the Whitewater River and Bad Creek in Oconee County, South Carolina.

The only other hydropower-related update was a small capacity increase with Northwestern Corporation filing an application in April to increase the capacity of its Missouri-Madison Project from 303.5 MW to 305.2 MW. That project is located on the Missouri and Madison Rivers in Cascade, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, and Madison counties in Montana.

There were no hydropower activities in May. --Jared Anderson, jared.anderson@spglobal.com

--Edited by Brandon Evans, newsdesk@spglobal.com