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Energy & Environment

Coal Struggles In Texas, Despite Pro-Coal Administration

“Rhetoric’s one thing, money’s another,” said one energy researcher

Picture of Big Brown Power Plant
Dave Fehling


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Texas coal is struggling, despite pro-coal politics. Luminant‘s recent decision to close two major coal plants reveals how economics can overshadow policy.

Back in April, at a celebration of NRG's new "carbon capture" plant near Houston, Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised President Trump for his pro-coal policies.

"He's taken action on regulations that distorted the energy marketplace that has left communities across America devastated,” Perry said.

But Texas communities near the three Luminant plants set to close early next year will soon lose hundreds of jobs. The company said low power prices and competition from renewables and natural gas prompted the closures.

"Well I mean rhetoric's one thing, money's another,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Texas’ Energy Institute.

"If coal plants are costing more to run than natural gas plants, then they're just not going to get dispatched as often and not going to make as much money,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes noted these closures won't necessarily help other kinds of power generation – some coal plants that aren’t closing could even ramp up to make up for the loss. But, he said, if the state grid operator approves the closures, Texas will get a bigger chunk of its power mix from wind energy than from coal by early next year.