US DOE to fund support for clean coal research as coal-fired plants retire at near-record pace

The cumulative coal capacity declined from 342.30 gigawatts (GW) in 2010 to 257.14GW in 2019 at a negative compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.4% between 2010 and 2019. Furthermore, 5.8GW of US coal capacity is scheduled to retire in 2020 and three-quarters of new generating capacity will be from renewable energy, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

With approximately 21.4GW of coal capacity going offline by 2024, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $64m in federal funding for the cost-shared research and development (R&D) of smaller, more efficient and cleaner coal-fired power plants. The additional funding is part of DOE’s Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative) initiative that kicked off in 2019, which aims to develop coal fired power plants of the future that will provide secure, stable, reliable power with near zero emissions. However, the funding for coal is lower than the $125.5m DOE announced for solar research.

In 2019, DOE selected 13 under-development cleaner coal-fired cost-shared R&D projects to receive approximately $1.95m in funding. In April 2019, DOE had committed to $87.3m for advanced coal technologies and research. Moreover, the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) issued a Notice of Intent for an upcoming Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), for critical components for Coal FIRST power plants of the future, which will make available up to approximately $100m for R&D projects.

Bhavana Sri Pullagura, Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “With the continuing momentum in renewable energy capacity addition by utilities and independent power producers (IPPs), and the long-term plans put in place by these companies for renewable energy capacity additions and coal-based generation capacity decommissioning, there is a remote possibility that a large baseload coal power plant can be built in future in the US.

“Coal as a percentage of US electricity generation is declining and there is not much chance that coal will return to its early days of glory. The DOEs investments in R&D for cleaner coal technologies are expected to develop the next generation of coal plants and use the coal resource in an environmentally responsible manner. With a vision of coal fleet of small units, sized 50MW to 350MW, high efficiency and close-to-zero emissions, the coal industry is looking to minimize financial risks.”

More Media