U.S. Energy Information Administration logo

Today in Energy

June 28, 2011

Most coal-fired electric capacity was built before 1980

graphs of Most coal-fired electric capacity was built before 1980, as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860 Annual Electric Generator Report , and Form EIA-860M (see Table ES3 in the March 2011 Electric Power Monthly)
Note: Data for 2010 are preliminary. Generators with online dates earlier than 1930 are predominantly hydroelectric. Data include non-retired plants existing as of year-end 2010. This chart shows the most recent (summer) capacity data for each generator. However, this number may change over time, if a generator undergoes an uprate or derate.
Download CSV Data

The June 16 edition of Today in Energy examined the wide age range of electric power generators for all fuels; today's article looks specifically at coal-fired generators. Most new electric power generators built between 1950 and 1990 were coal-fired. Seventy-three percent of coal-fired electric generators existing at the end of 2010 were at least 30 years old. Nearly half of U.S. electric power generation comes from coal.

Some older coal-fired generators were retrofitted with various environmental controls (see chart for data on installations of one type of control, the flue gas desulfurization unit, also called FGD or scrubber). FGDs prevent most sulfur dioxide (one precursor for acid rain) from entering the atmosphere. Other controls limit emissions of nitrogen oxides (another precursor for acid rain) or particulate matter (smog-creating particles). In 2009, 53% of the operating coal-fired capacity (or 27% of coal-fired generators) had scrubbers.

graph of Number of capacity of electric generators with flue gas desulfurization units (scrubbers), as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Annual, Table 3.10
Download CSV Data