Arizona is home to the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal power plant in the Western U.S.. The plant also has the not-so-flattering distinction of being the seventh largest source of climate pollution in the country, emitting over 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Three years ago, the plant owners struck a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close the plant by 2044. However, the shutdown now looks like it will happen decades ahead of schedule. The owners of the coal-fired plant — which provides much of the power to the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, the canal that has enabled the explosive growth of Phoenix and Tucson — voted a couple of weeks back to close when its lease ends in December 2019. It has nothing to do with environmental regulations though, but rather economics. The plant is old and has been undercut by low prices for natural gas that fuel other plants. In fact, customers of the plant are actually paying more for their electricity than they would otherwise. The Central Arizona Project, one of the main purchasers of NGS power, reported in a recent presentation that they could have saved $38.5 million in 2016 by purchasing power at standard market rates instead of the coal plant. The unfavorable economics of coal are not limited to just NGS though – it’s an issue facing the entire industry and has nothing to do with the Clean Power Plan. The country’s coal fleet is shrinking mostly due to the fact that the plants are old – the ​Navajo​ ​G​enerating ​S​tation was built in 1972. The average retirement age of coal plants in 2015 was 58 years old, which indicates that much of the country’s coal fleet is facing its demise in the relatively near future. According to an analysis of SNL Energy data, 46 coal units have received regulatory approval to retire over the next 12 years. Few new coal plants are in the works to replace those that are being shut down, too. The EIA only lists three proposed electric-sector coal plants scheduled to open by 2021. This could all prove to be a big problem for President Trump and his promise to bring about a “coal renaissance.” Despite his more coal-friendly policy, utilities so far seem to be sticking to their plans to retire their aging coal units and transition to more efficient plants, most of which will utilize either natural gas or renewable energy sources like solar and wind. David Schissel, director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says the market forces working against coal are not going away. “What the owners of Navajo have been saying about the economics of their plant is reflective of what’s happening to the entire industry.” (Sources: CoExist, LA Times, SNL)