Coal-Fired Power In Steady Decline In California Since 2005


A pattern of closing coal-fired power plants has been the trend in California since 2005.

That pattern continues with almost all of the state’s coal-fired energy imported from other states. The coal-fired energy imports are also on the way out, with the last import in California slated for 2025.

Coal-fired electricity began declining in California when the 1,636 megawatts (MW) Mohave Generating Station closed in 2005. The impetus was concern over how coal-fired power plants contributed greenhouse gas emissions to the environment.

At the time, the Mohave plant was one of the dirtiest in the Western United States, emitting up to 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxide yearly.

From 2006 through July 2016, a total of 3,463 MW of capacity from imported and in-state coal-fired plants has been removed from California’s resource portfolio, according to the California Energy Commission’s latest tracking progress report.

Phasing out coal is a result of California’s Emission Performance Standard (EPS) for California serving utilities. That standard was mandated by Senate Bill 1368 and applies to baseload generation either owned by, or under long term contract to a utility.

The EPS was crucial to the decisions from Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the California Department of Water Resources to end their affiliations with coal-fired generation in 2014.

By the end of 2015, coal-fired electricity generation plants represented less than 6 percent of the energy used to serve California, with only a fraction coming from out of state power plants, the report found.

This happened even during the intense drought between 2001 and 2005 when hydroelectric generation was low and power was needed from other sources.

California Coal Imports:  2005, 2015 and 2026
2006 Imports
3,789 MW
7 Plants Operational
2015 Imports
2,716 MW
4 Plants Operational
2026 Imports (estimated)

End of out of state affiliations 
expected in 2025

California’s reduced dependence on coal is in stark contrast to other states where coal remains a predominant energy generator. Of the 48 states that use coal for electricity generation, 15 obtained at least half of their electricity from coal generation.

Currently only one plant – the 30-year-old Intermountain Power Project (IPP) plant in Delta, Utah, imports power directly into a California power balancing area. Three others import coal-fired energy into California via the West’s bulk transmission system.

The IPP, which supplies coal-fired power to Los Angeles and five other cities in the state, will switch to natural gas generation in 2025.

In October, the Energy Commission accepted Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s compliance request to replace its contract at the IPP to take advantage of the switch from coal to natural gas. The divestiture from coal at LADWP comes two years earlier than expected.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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