October 31, 2023

Using National-Scale Data to Inform Coal Power Plant Redevelopment and Coal Community Revitalization Planning


In the United States, individual coal plants have high variation in their construction and operation. Coal plants commonly have multiple units, with different commissioning ages, operational position, and maintenance conditions – even multiple fuels. These units may be in changing states of utilization, with variation in productivity depending on economic contexts. Coal plants themselves may be temporarily offline, mothballed, retired, or decommissioned due to owner/operator portfolios or market conditions, and the current posture of the plant may be difficult to ascertain without local news sources (Tarekegne et al. 2021). Anticipated dates of plant closures are prospectively represented to regulators and to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), but may also experience uncertainty due to the engineering, environmental, economic and social complexity of closing a very large power plant. As noted in this report, closure of the first unit to the last within a single plant may span more than 20 years. Yet tracking and predicting the position of our nation’s coal fleets on a national scale is deeply important. In developing a case for federal datasets and an approach to building and curating these data, this report identified that data must have high fidelity at the plant-level to be meaningful in aggregate. Plant-scale detail is also a match for its application: national priorities in federal investment range from economic revitalization for coal plant communities to maintaining reliable electric grid operations. This document is organized into a statistical review of coal plant retirements, past and prospective, in the United States; trends in the relationship between closures and existing federal investment programs for community revitalization; and potential methods for accelerating site redevelopment through advanced geospatial analysis based on federal data.

Published: October 31, 2023


Taylor M.S., L.M. Miller, J.T. Barlow, R.L. Michaels, V.M. Sinnott, K. Kazimierczuk, and R.M. Tapio, et al. 2023. Using National-Scale Data to Inform Coal Power Plant Redevelopment and Coal Community Revitalization Planning Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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