NRG Will Close 3 Coal Plants After Poor Auction Results

NRG Energy Inc. said it will retire three coal-fired power plants—two in Illinois and one in Delaware—next year after disappointing results in the May 2021 capacity auction for the PJM Interconnection.

NRG during its June 17 investor day presentation said about 1.6 GW of coal-fired generation would be closed, including the 682-MW Waukegan and 510-MW Will County (Romeoville) plants in Illinois, along with the 410-MW Indian River plant in Delaware. The announcement was made by Christopher Moser, NRG’s executive vice president of operations. The plants account for about 55% of NRG’s coal-fired generation capacity in PJM.

“Closing these plants was a difficult, but necessary decision,” NRG said in a statement.  

The Waukegan coal plant, located on the shore of Lake Michigan, will close next year along with two other NRG-operated coal plants, the company announced June 17. Courtesy: Google Images

Moser said the three facilities would be retired in June 2022. The clearing price for most of PJM’s service territory dropped to $50/MW-day in the 2022-23 capacity auction, down from $140/MW-day for the unconstrained regional transmission organization region in the 2021-22 capacity auction. PJM said there was a reduction of 8,175 MW of coal generation from the previous auction, when accounting for resources committed to fixed resource requirement plans.

NRG in a June 3 investor presentation said it had cleared 2,417 MW of capacity at an average price of $71.36 in the 2022-23 auction, compared to 4,619 MW in the 2021-22 capacity auction at an average price of $191.12. The company has more than 5 GW of generation capacity in PJM. NRG on Thursday said it is said it is “evaluating all options to mitigate lower capacity prices.”

The Illinois closures come after months of debate among state lawmakers about when to order the closure of all remaining coal-fired plants in the state, as officials seek to reduce air pollution and combat climate change. A 2035 closing date for all coal plants has been part of the discussion, as is a 2045 phaseout date for natural gas-fired power plants in the state. 

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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