Turmoil in US Solar Industry to Postpone Decommissioning of Coal-Fired Plants by Another Two Years

published: 2022-05-06 9:30 | editor: | category: News

Has establishment of solar systems postponed the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants? US public utility company NiSource Inc commented several days ago that it will delay the shutdown of its coal-fired power plant in Indiana. The solar import investigation initiated this year has drastically delayed the establishment of renewable energy facilities that were prepared to replace fossil fuels.  

US trade officials commented in March this year that a solar import investigation will be unfolded to impose duties on solar panels imported from four Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The main reason behind this investigation, believed by US solar manufacturer Auxin Solar, is that Chinese suppliers are able to relocate their capacity to the aforementioned country in order to avoid solar product duties imposed by the US through changes of production area.

However, US solar trade groups warn that the four aforementioned countries supply 80% of the solar panels in the US, and the investigation may reduce nearly half of solar installations in the country this and next year. In addition, the Department of Commerce had only initiated the investigation in March, so any substantial results will arrive at least after several months.

NiSource commented that the postponement of decommissioning in coal-fired power plants has affected the company’s schedule in obtaining profits from cheaper power generating resources. Executives of NiSource commented at the quarterly earning conference call hosted by Wall Street analysts that the two remaining generators of the R.M. Schahfer Coal-Fired Power Plant in Jasper Country, Indiana will now be deferred in decommissioning to the end of 2025, instead of the previously set target of 2023.

R.M. Schahfer Coal-Fired Power Plant has been operating from the 1980s, though two generators of the plant have now been decommissioned since the company announced a target that shuts down all coal-fired power plants by 2028 and reduces emission by 90% by 2030. NiSource commented that the initial target remains unchanged, despite delays in decommissioning schedule.

Shawn Anderson, Senior VP of NiSource, commented that the company had initially expected to complete the establishment of most solar and energy storage plants between 2022 and 2023, and the schedule has now been postponed by 6-18 months. According to NiSource’s plans, the company still has 10 solar programs under development that are hopefully able to replenish the 877MW void after the decommissioning of the Schahfer plant.

Anderson commented that the company aims to facilitate profitability and energy conservation for clients through renewable energy transformation. However, the delay in decommission from the investigation would eventually defer clients’ profitability, especially under the macroenvironment where all countries are hit with surging energy cost.

This is not the first coal-fired power plant that has been extended in operation duration. Apart from the turmoil in the US solar industry, the outbreak of the coronavirus in China during February had once again resulted in a scission in the solar supply chain, and the San Juan Coal-Fired Power Plant in New Mexico will now operate for another three months before shutting down.

(Cover photo source: Flickr/Bureau of Land Management CC BY 2.0)

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