AUSTIN - Citing the poor economics of coal, Texas electric generator Luminant announced this morning plans to retire its 1800 MW Monticello coal burning power plant in January. The forty year old Monticello plant, at peak production one of Texas’ most polluting power plants, had run intermittently in recent years as the plant became less competitive with cleaner generation on the Texas electric grid.
“This is great news for air quality in Texas and offers the chance for a cleaner, safer future for our kids,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “With record flooding, drought and wildfires in recent years, Texas has been taking a beating from global warming in recent years. The dramatic drop in price of wind and solar means we can stop burning dirty coal and transition to a clean energy future.”
The retirement must still be approved by grid operator ERCOT, which will determine the impact of the plant’s closure to electric grid reliability. A January 2017 study found that grid would remain reliable without the plant and Environment Texas urged ERCOT to approve the closure and not subsidize its continued operation.
Use of clean wind and solar energy, as well as natural gas, has boomed in recent years, chipping away at coal’s dominance. Since 2007, Texas has seen a 21,466% increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and a 639% increase in wind power production. Wind generated nearly 23% of electricity in ERCOT in the first quarter of 2017. ERCOT projects continued dramatic growth of wind and solar in the coming years.
The Luminant announcement comes just days after the EPA abandoned an Obama Administration plan to require the Monticello and other Texas coal power plants to install scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and the resulting haze impairing air quality at Big Bend National Park and other natural areas.